You From Where Now!? 11 Celebs Who We Were Surprised To Find Out Were British
Am I the only person who gets their mind blown anytime I find out that a famous actor or actress, who sounds like anybody I would meet on the streets of New York, Los Angeles or even from the south, is actually British? It’s not until interviews take place, or someone tells me at a random moment that the reality of it all hits me, and for most of the folks I found to be from England on this list, it was a big surprise. Maybe they will be just as much as a surprise to you, as they were to me at one time or another, or you can relate to being surprised whenever it was that you found out these people were Brits.
ATTENTION: We didn’t JUST find out they were British. These were realizations made over the years. Enjoy!
I know I’m not the only one who was extra surprised after figuring out Hugh Laurie was British. During his time on House, his take on the American accent was so on point that the day I watched a late-night interview with him, thick Brit accent and all, I couldn’t help but say, “What the wha??” The Golden Globe winner who played cynical, unorthodox Dr. Gregory House on the show, was born in Oxford, and when he auditioned to play the doctor, executive producer Bryan Singer had no clue that he was actually anything but an American man. Yep, his accent was that convincing!
Blame it on the fact that I actually hadn’t seen Ejogo in that many films, but when I saw her in Sparkle, I found her American accent to be pretty on point. Might be because she resides in Brooklyn and is married to amazing American actor Jeffrey Wright, but she can blend in just fine. With a Nigerian father and a Scottish mother, she was born and raised in London, beginning her career in the UK back in the early ’90s. And even when she sings (she does so on the side and sang along with Tika Sumpter and Jordin Sparks for a few songs that were in Sparkle and on the soundtrack), there’s no sign of it.
Early in his career, Walker was all over the place in the UK making a name for himself, but it wasn’t until he starred as Kareem Said on Oz that he became pretty popular in Hollywood. And like his Oz co-star, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, I had not one clue that Walker was British until just a few years ago. While born to Caribbean parents (a Trinidadian mother and Grenadian father), Walker was born and raised in London. On an interesting side note, something else that surprised me was that Walker had a background as a trained dancer before an injury sidelined him.
On the show Without a Trace, which Jean-Baptiste starred on from 2002-20009 (which is how I came to know the talented actress), she played Vivian Johnson. On the show, her character had a pretty thick and convincing New York accent, so I thought she was just any ‘ol American actress. But it wasn’t until recently that I was told by a co-worker that she was indeed a Brit. Sure, I had seen Jean-Baptiste in Takers, but I had assumed she was…well…assuming an English accent to keep up with Idris Elba, since they played brother and sister. Yeah, that one went right over my head.
Any other The Wire-heads out there? I loved every season of that show, and part of my fascination with it came from the main character of Jimmy McNulty, the extremely intelligent but oh-so annoying detective. Played with a pretty awesome Baltimore yet Irish-inspired accent by West, I had no clue until the show ended and I started to see West’s behind-the-scenes commentary that I came to the realization that he was not from Baltimore (of course), or anywhere else in this country for that matter. West is from Sheffield, England, but he is actually from an Irish-Catholic family, even attending a college in Ireland.
I know you remember Ellis from Girlfriends! I personally couldn’t stand the character as he came off a bit pretentious and had way too much baby mama drama for Joan, but he was definitely an interesting match for her character to say the least. Lester is actually from Birmingham, England, which was a bit surprising, but not too much, because his LA accent on Girlfriends was a bit…bleh. He’s also a pretty prominent writer and director, and is actually a very big actor on British television.
Gugu Mbatha Raw
Okay, so maybe I was the only person in the world who actually appreciated the short-lived NBC show Undercovers with Boris Kodjoe and Gugu, but I was introduced to the very beautiful actress through the series and found her to be a pretty good actress. In later roles, including Larry Crowne starring Tom Hanks, she still talks with an American accent, but surprise, surprise, homegirl is from Oxford. Her father is a South African doctor and her mother an English nurse. The family moved to London so that Gugu could study at a school for the dramatic arts.
A very underrated actor, Sutherland might not even have an English accent, but the son of legendary actor Donald Sutherland was actually born in London. Some years later, his family moved to California, and then Canada, which is where he was basically raised and went to school, and also where he obtained his first major acting role. On an interesting side note, when he finally moved to Hollywood, one of his first roommates was actor Robert Downey, Jr., and they lived together for three years before they started making it big.
With a Bronx-born accent in Miami Vice, or playing a Europol agent in Ninja Assassin, or even a Caribbean priestess in two Pirates of the Caribbean movies in the franchise, Harris had me fooled for a while. Nowadays, especially after starring in Skyfall with Daniel Craig, most people know that she is a pretty awesome British actress. Harris was born and raised in London, and like many people on this list, her parents are from the Caribbean, hers specifically from Jamaica and Trinidad.
As a Walking Dead fan, I basically know Lennie James for being Morgan, the character who helped Rick in the beginning of the series, and then went on to lose his sanity once returning in the third season after losing both his wife and son. As with most shows, I just assumed the man I was seeing was an American actor, but James is actually from Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, a county in England, and he was born to Trinidadian parents. James went on to move to London and has actually been in a lot of films, including the movie Snatch, directed by British director Guy Ritchie (which Brad Pitt was in), where he showed off his very thick Brit accent.
Harewood, better known as CIA director David Estes on the much-loved Showtime series Homeland, has a very believable Americana accent on the series, but in reality, the actor was born and raised in Small Heath, an inner city area in Birmingham, England. He actually has had many big roles on television in London, even playing Nelson Mandela on a single series called Mrs. Mandela, but his name and face became more prominent internationally by playing Estes on the award-winning show. In 2012, because of his extensive resume, Harewood was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his contributions to drama.