Foreign Actors You Probably Thought Were American

One of the most impressive masks a foreign actor can wear involves pretending to be American. Impressively, the actors and actresses on this list hid their natural accents for roles. One actress used an American accent so much she completely lost her Australian dialect (page 10).

1. Idris Elba

Idris Elba as Janek in a uniform in a commanding chair on a ship holding a cup in Prometheus
Idris Elba as Janek in Prometheus | 20th Century Fox

Nationality: British

Idris Elba’s first American TV role was Baltimore drug kingpin Stringer Bell on the HBO’s The Wire. The Brit played in American action films, like DC’s The Losers and MCU’s Asgardian Heimdall, and sci-fi films Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and Star Trek Beyond. He used his natural accent in BBC One’s Luther and miniseries Guerrilla.

Next: This actress found her niche with action roles.

2. Famke Janssen

Famke Janssen as Susan Scott 'Scottie' Hargrave wearing a light blue shirt and pointing a gun off screen on The Blacklist: Redemption
Famke Janssen as Susan Scott ‘Scottie’ Hargrave on The Blacklist: Redemption | NBC

Nationality: Dutch

Famke Janssen’s first notable role was Xenia Onatopp opposite Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in GoldenEye, adopting a Russian accent for the part. Using an American accent, the Dutch actress rose to prominence in X-Men. She also starred in the Taken trilogy, The Blacklist, and The Blacklist: Redemption.

Next: Mystery surrounds this star’s background.

3. Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves
Actor Keanu Reeves attends a 2018 movie premiere. | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Nationality: Canadian

The Matrix star has never fully revealed the details of his citizenship. Keanu Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon. His mother is English and his father is of “Chinese-Hawaiian, English, Irish and Portuguese descent,” according to IMDb. Reeves’ parents split, and he eventually moved to Toronto with his mom and sister. The star explains that, at 20 years old, he got his green card and “drove across the border from Canada and came to LA.”

Next: This badass biker was born across the pond.

4. Charlie Hunnam

Charlie Hunnam as Jax in a plaid shirt and vest that says "President" talking on a cell phone on Sons of Anarchy
Charlie Hunnam as Jax on Sons of Anarchy | FX

Nationality: British

The British actor gained attention when he starred on Sons of Anarchy with an American accent. Charlie Hunnam picked up action roles in films like The Ledge, Deadfall, and Pacific Rim. In 2017, he appeared in The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword using his natural accent.

Next: This Oscar-winner almost had her citizenship revoked.

5. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman, wearing a jacket, and looking concerned off into the distance
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster in Thor| Marvel

Nationality: Israeli and American

Born in Jerusalem, Israel by the name of Natalie Hershlag, Portman moved to the U.S. with her family when she was four years old. As one of the most famous Jewish celebs, the Black Swan star did not attend a Jewish awards ceremony where she would receive the Genesis Prize, aka the Jewish Nobel prize, according to Vox. The Harvard graduate did not want to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This resulted in members of the parliament calling for Portman’s Israeli citizenship to be revoked.

Next: This breakout star tricked audiences everywhere.

6. Daniel Kaluuya

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington staring straight into the camera, crying in 'Get Out'
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out | Universal

Nationality: British

Horror flick Get Out gained international praise in 2017, with star Daniel Kaluuya winning over fans and using an American accent. Until then, he mostly acted in his home country of England. You can see him revert to his natural voice in Marvel film Black Panther.

Next: This TV star admits he doesn’t vote in the U.S. or his home country.

7. Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland | Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Nationality: Canadian

Born in London, Kiefer Sutherland has a complicated history. The Designated Survivor star is the grandson of Tommy Douglas, a socialist icon recognized for launching Canada’s public healthcare system, reveals CBC. His mom, Shirley Douglas, is an actress and activist, and his famous dad, Donald Sutherland, is an actor and outspoken political critic. Although Kiefer can’t vote in Canada because he lacks citizenship, he says, “I’ve always felt I was Canadian and that’s who I am and I have no interest in changing that.”

Next: This model-turned-actress got her start in Europe.

8. Diane Kruger

Diane Kruger as Sonya Cross standing in front of trees on The Bridge
Diane Kruger as Sonya Cross on The Bridge | FX

Nationality: German

Born Diane Heidkrüger, Kruger began her career as a model in Germany. She appeared in a few French films before landing in American productions like Troy and Wicker Park. Kruger may be most recognized for actually playing a German in Inglourious Basterds.

Next: Shockingly, this zombie-killer is not American.

9. Andrew Lincoln

Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes with blood on his face points a gun underneath a tree in AMC's The Walking Dead
Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead | AMC

Nationality: British

What may help a U.K. actor transition to Hollywood? A less British surname. This was how Andrew Clutterbuck got the stage name Andrew Lincoln. He acted across the pond for years in films like Love Actually. But Lincoln didn’t become a household name until he landed the lead role on AMC series The Walking Dead, receiving critical praise for his acting.

Next: She’s portrayed so many Americans that her accent disappeared.

10. Portia de Rossi

Portia de Rossi as Lindsay Bluth wearing a collared shirt and tie in a kitchen reading a magazine and staring ahead on Arrested Development
Portia de Rossi as Lindsay Bluth on Arrested Development | FOX

Nationality: Australian

Not only did Australian actress Portia de Rossi change her accent, but she also changed her name (from Amanda Lee Rogers) and career (she studied law in university). Gigs on Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted led to de Rossi’s fame. In fact, she eventually adopted her U.S. accent beyond her acting roles. In 2017, she reprised her role on Scandal.

Next: “The Land Down Under” produces renowned actresses.

11. Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn against a white tile wall in Suicide Squad
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad | Warner Bros.

Nationality: Australian

The star began acting on soap opera Neighbours. She achieved major success for The Wolf of Wall Street, where she used a Brooklyn accent. From there, she acted in The Legend of Tarzan and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (using her natural accent). Now, Robbie is best known as Harley Quinn in the DC Extended Universe.

While fans know the character for her New Jersey-New York dialect, Robbie sticks with a non-regional American accent for her adaptation.

Next: The fifth highest-paid TV star isn’t even from America.

12. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

The 2015 premiere of Game of Thrones with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau| Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Nationality: Danish

Americans know him as Jaime Lannister in the award-winning HBO series Game of Thrones. But Nikolaj Coster-Waldau got his big break in the Danish film Nightwatch, reports IMDb. Born in Rudkøbing, Denmark, the actor makes $1 million per episode with the GOT franchise, receiving Emmy, SAG, Critics’ Choice, and People’s Choice awards along the way.

Next: You’ll know this Australian actress from an American wedding movie.

13. Isla Fisher

Isla Fisher as Gloria Cleary smiling in a dress in Wedding Crashers
Isla Fisher as Gloria Cleary in Wedding Crashers | New Line Cinema

Nationality: Australian and British

Born in the Arab country of Oman to Scottish parents, Isla Fisher lived in Scotland before settling down in Perth, Australia. She primarily identifies as Australian, and her accent reflects this, although she spends a lot of time in England. Fisher has long hidden her native accent. She’s best known for Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and Now You See Me — all with an American accent.

Next: This British actor appropriately began with Downton Abbey.

14. Charlie Cox

Charlie Cox wearing red sunglasses and a suit standing in a doorway as Matt Murdock on Daredevil
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock on Daredevil | Netflix

Nationality: British

Charlie Cox began acting while living in the U.K. and appeared on Downton Abbey, too. His first regular TV role was Owen Sleater on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, where he spent two seasons.

Unless you’re familiar with his earlier roles, you probably know Cox best as Matt Murdock, “The Man Without Fear,” on the Netflix series, Daredevil. This show was the first of the Marvel projects on the streaming network, beginning quite a phenomenon. He also plays the character in the miniseries, The Defenders.

Next: Being cut from a film didn’t stop this Irish actress.

15. Ruth Negga

Ruth Negga talking into an old-fashioned phone in Loving
Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving in Loving | Focus Features

Nationality: Irish and Ethiopian

Born in Ethiopia, Ruth Negga was actually raised by her Irish mother in Limerick, Ireland. The actress appeared in British series but received greater recognition on Agents of SHIELD. Negga filmed 12 Years a Slave — she was ultimately cut — and Warcraft. The actress finally earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress as the star of historical drama Loving.

Next: She co-starred in one of the most “American” TV shows ever.

16. Kim Cattrall

Kim Cattrall
Sex and the City actress Kim Cattrall | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Nationality: British and Canadian

Although Kim Cattrall was born in Liverpool, England, she’s a Canadian citizen who doesn’t even live in the United States. Cattrall moved to NYC to study acting, receiving her big break in 1997 when she was cast as sassy, stylish Samantha in Sex and the City. Due to her complex past, Cattrall describes herself as a “Liverpool-born, Canadian-raised New Yorker.”

Next: Hearing this actress speak without a Boston accent is surprising.

17. Yael Stone

Yael Stone as Lorna Morello looking sad while wearing a wedding veil on Orange Is the New Black
Yael Stone as Lorna Morello on Orange Is the New Black | Netflix

Nationality: Australian

Stage actress Yael Stone has both a unique name and origin story. Her father’s family is from Czechoslovakia, and she began acting as a child. Before moving to the U.S. for work, she appeared in a few Australian films and TV series.

As luck would have it, Stone was cast in Orange Is the New Black shortly after moving to New York. Her character quickly became known for her distinct accent, which was thought to be a mixture of Boston and Brooklyn. For fans who have only seen her on the Netflix hit, hearing her native accent can be a jarring experience.

Next: This actor makes it hard to tell which accent is real.

18. Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen posing on a beach in sunglasses and a green swim suit giving a thumbs up in Borat
Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat | 20th Century Fox

Nationality: British

Like his wife, Fisher, Sacha Baron Cohen is known for his interesting voice. Because of the characters he’s played throughout his comedic career, Baron Cohen has adopted many accents over the years, and some fans may be confused about his true voice.

Born and raised in London, England, Baron Cohen rose to fame with the film Borat, where he played the eponymous man from Kazakhstan, which he followed with Brüno, who is Austrian, and Admiral General Aladeen in The Dictator, who hailed from a fictional Middle Eastern country. It’s hard to keep up with the accents and characters Baron Cohen takes on, so you’d be forgiven for not knowing where he was from.

Next: A “sixth sense” gave this actress her big break in America.

19. Toni Collette

Toni Collette as Tara Gregson in a classroom staring ahead on United States of Tara
Toni Collette as Tara Gregson on United States of Tara | Showtime

Nationality: Australian

Actress and singer Toni Collette was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, but fans of her most popular works may not know this. Like most on this list, she began performing in her home country but soon transitioned to Hollywood, where she’s starred on film, TV, and stage for many years.

Dating back to 1999, Collette was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Sixth Sense, kicking off her tenure in American cinema. She received acclaim for turns in popular U.S. indie films such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Way, Way Back. But perhaps her most significant role is the lead in Showtime series, United States of Tara, where she played the many different personalities of a woman with dissociative identity disorder.

Next: BBC jumpstarted this famous actor’s career.

20. Dan Stevens

Dan Stevens as David Haller leans against a white wall looking angry in Legion
Dan Stevens as David Haller on Legion | FX

Nationality: British

The Brit began his career on stage and in BBC adaptations. However, Dan Stevens got his big break as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. In fact, many of his roles show off his natural accent, but Americans who aren’t Downton Abbey fans know him as David Haller on X-Men’s Legion.

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