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Don’t Engage in Accent Reduction – Instead, Accent Addition

Hey, there!

For the longest time, I’ve had conversations with both regional American and non-American actors about their accents.

Almost to a person, they are fairly desperate to find a way to stamp out their native accent and replace it with a General American accent.

Big, big, BIG mistake.

Here’s why.

Imagine you’re a carpenter. The job you’re about to do requires a saw. But you have a hammer in your hand.

Do you pitch the hammer into the garbage in your pursuit of the saw?

Of course not. You set it aside, and you pick out another tool to use.

Why would you do this with your VO tool set?

Rather than attending an accent reduction class, or getting private coaching from someone who will help you “reduce” (read that, stamp out) your lovely Boston or Liverpudlian or Arkansas or Russian accent, something that could and will get you work when the work calls for it, instead work with an accent coach on developing a series of other accents, including General (and regional) American accents.

I’ve had dozens of VO demo clients with whom I’ve had to have serious conversations about the “embarrassment” of a regional or foreign accent. I’ve had to talk them down off the roof when they’ve been afraid of showing their true colors.

Remember – if you grew up there, if you were surrounded and modeled by natives just like you, when it comes to an audition that requires your hometown voice, you stand a much better chance of getting the part than does someone not from there, who can usually just manage a serviceable version of your region’s accent or dialect.

Here’s an article from Backstage that might just surprise you:

http://www.backstage.com/news/15-actors-who-masterfully-hide-their-natural-accents/

Leading the pack, the most famous example in recent memory: Hugh Laurie. Most people know him from his 8 years as Dr. Gregory House, MD on FOX’s House. But I remember him from the raucous Black Adder on the BBC, and my mother called me up after his appearance on the Tonight Show one night, and asked, “Why is House using a British accent??”

That’s awesome.

Not listed is Australian Simon Baker, who, for the last 6 years or so, has played Patrick Jane on The Mentalist (a show on which I’ve had the pleasure of guest starring), and countless other Australian, English, Minnesotan, South African, Bostonian, Irish, Canadian, Texan, Chicagoan and other brilliant actors that can slip effortlessly back into their native way of speaking and nail that requirement for a part – as opposed to having their heritage beaten out of them in a pursuit of General American.

This goes for all your acting tools, not just your accents and dialects.

Add to your tool set, don’t throw tools away.

Hope this helps.

David

8 Responses to Don’t Engage in Accent Reduction – Instead, Accent Addition

  1. Mike Broderick May 14, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Hi David. One night my wife and I were watching House. Suz is English and thought his American accent sounded funny. I’m American and thought it sounded fine. I didn’t even know he was British at the time.

  2. Joe Shirley May 15, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Exactly the article this Tennessee boy needed to read today. Thanks!

  3. Jennifer dixon May 15, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    Well said David! When I grew up(aeons ago) it was considered to be socially unacceptable by my Dad to use anything but what was then considered to be BBC British but having a musical ear and absorbing sounds etc I was always picking up the ‘guttersnipe'(his words not mine;-) language from all the kids I played with during the war and happily can use a lot of that in creating characters now!!! As an aside just loved Black Adder -did you see that poignant ending? real tear jerker…..

  4. Gwendolyn May 15, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    I was 6! And I still bemoan that my Boston/Rhode Island/Maine incomprehensibility was ‘fixed.’ Ayuh.

  5. Sam Swicegood May 20, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Ah, accents. How I love them!

    And I thoroughly agree. Accents are a tool that can be used, misued, overused, underused, and inappropriately used. Using accents wisely can get you extra work. Using them accurately can give you a good repuation as an “accent guy” (like me!).

  6. J Rodney Turner February 16, 2017 at 5:31 am #

    I giggle when I read this :). Thanks for confirming my thoughts

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