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Actors Who Aren't American With The Best American Accents

It happens all the time: An actor turns in a riveting performance as an American character. Subsequently, many viewers are shocked to learn that the performer who just blew them away is not, in fact, from the United States. Consider Rosamund Pike, whose chilling performance as vengeful wife Amy Elliot Dunne thrilled Gone Girl watchers. Pike, who is English, has been acting in film, TV, and theater productions since the 1990s, extensively, but not exclusively, in England. Then came Gone Girl, in which she captivates as a privileged and urbane New Yorker who marries a writer  from Missouri, played by Ben Affleck. They capture two distinctly American lives, tied to very different parts of the country — but only one of them is actually American. It's a testament to Pike's skill that so many are shocked to discover this.

However one learns the fact of a convincingly American non-American actor's origins, it often enhances their performance. If one is privy to the actor's personal details ahead of time, it can inspire a more focused appreciation of their efforts. If the knowledge comes after seeing the performance, it might inspire a deep dive into that actor's filmography. We're here to pay tribute to those actors who may not be an American, but have turned in exceptional performances as one.

KJ Apa is making major moves

KJ Apa plays Archie Andrews, the copper-haired protagonist of Riverdale, a moody adaptation of the all-American world of Archie Comics. In this modern take, Archie and his pals Betty, Veronica, and Jughead get up to plenty of activities that the comic's original characters couldn't possibly fathom. Running underground clubs, solving murders, steamy sexual encounters — that's just Tuesday for the teens of Riverdale.

Though playing Archie has launched Apa into major stardom, it isn't his first gig. From 2013 to 2015, Apa appeared on the soap opera Shortland Street in New Zealand. That's right: Archie's from Auckland. It was only a couple of years after that job ended that he easily slipped into Archie's shoes. Apa is set to star in Michael Bay's Songbird, a romantic thriller set during a pandemic. As Riverdale demonstrates, Apa is more than game for drama — and using his impeccable American accent.

Damian Lewis is a master of military roles

English actor Damian Lewis has tackled a number of roles as a US military officer. It was his performance in a theatrical production of Hamlet that got him noticed by Steven Spielberg, who cast him as an officer in the acclaimed HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He gained new fans and solidified those already on board with his compelling performance on Homeland as Nicholas Brody. Not only is Brody a part of the US military, but he is also a prisoner of war for eight years. Needless to say, upon his return to Washington, D.C., Brody's mental landscape is fragile and precarious. As Brody, Lewis is riveting to watch as he attempts to acclimate into society, including a return to suburban home life with his wife and kids. This effort garnered him multiple nominations and honors, including one Emmy award.

Currently, he is blowing audiences away on Showtime's Billions. As tech billionaire Bobby Axelrod, Lewis showcases the character's complex ego, which drives him to make decisions that are often ruthless. The story arc that finds Axelrod in a continuous battle with Paul Giamatti's character Chuck Rhoads is particularly loaded with epic banter.

Playing a serial killer from Florida got Charlize Theron her first Oscar

Modeling took Charlize Theron away from her home near Johannesburg, South Africa, eventually landing her in Los Angeles in the early '90s. There, she took acting classes and struggled to get by, before landing some small parts. After a few years, it paid off. She got a lead role in The Devil's Advocate in 1997, starring opposite Keanu Reeves. Since then, it's been a whirlwind of spectacular performances.

A completely transformative role for Theron was playing the serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. A sex worker who endures a lifetime of abuse and trauma, Wuornos murders several men and is ultimately executed by lethal injection in a Florida prison. Theron is unrecognizable as Wuornos and gives a bold performance that blew critics and audiences away. This role, which Theron almost didn't take, netted her an Oscar for Best Actress in 2004.

Her career has become almost absurdly wide-ranging in the years following. She's made action flicks, including Mad Max: Fury Road, Aeon Flux, and Atomic Blonde, and romcoms like Longshot, where she gets lovey-dovey with Seth Rogen. In the Diablo-Cody-penned Young Adult, she makes us feel sorry for a former prom queen, throwing herself at her high school boyfriend. Cringeworthy? Yes. And Theron sells the living daylights out of it.

Jacob Elordi knows how to serve up the angst

Netflix's insanely popular 2018 movie, The Kissing Booth, dropped its sequel, The Kissing Booth 2, in July of 2020. Almost immediately, fans were wondering when they'd get to see the third installment of the trilogy. The second movie ends with a giant cliffhanger involving the main characters Elle Evans (Joey King) and her boyfriend Noah Flynn, played by Jacob Elordi. The pair's love story — slightly forbidden because he's her BFF's older brother and the besties have rules about dating one another's siblings — is one no one knew they needed, but now can't seem to live without. As Flynn, Elordi plays a smug, angsty jock. He's got women falling at his feet. He's brooding, good-looking, and smart enough to get himself accepted into an Ivy League college. Yet he likes being knocked down a couple of pegs by Elle, who sees beyond his bad-boy persona.

Few would guess Elordi is Austalian, especially since he's taken American teen angst to a new level as Nate Jacobs in HBO's Euphoria. The young stars of this show face familial troubles, drug problems, and sexual issues. Nate is full of rage, in a way that makes Flynn's issues seem minimal. Elordi does a wonderful job letting the audience see vulnerability shine through Nate's cracks — however much the character might try to hide that part of himself.

Katherine Langford makes a Spontaneous appearance

All four seasons of the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why center around the suicide of Hannah Baker. Before taking her own life, the distraught teen records a series of cassette tapes, to be played post-mortem, which explain her fatal decision to each person she feels played a part. Australian actress Katherine Langford stars as Baker, and brings a wide range of emotion to the part. Her performance drives the show with a desperate, riveting urgency, and creates an honest look at just how hard high school life can be.

Langford jumped eagerly into Hollywood after 13 Reasons Why's success. She appeared in Knives Out, a cheeky murder mystery with an ensemble cast including Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, and Jamie Lee Curtis. She was almost a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well, but her scenes ended up getting scrapped. Still, the future is bright for Langford: Her latest movie, Spontaneous, is a sci-fi teen love story co-starring Charlie Plummer.

Christian Bale does whatever it takes

Who can't Christian Bale play? The English actor has taken deep dives into a wide variety of roles, doing whatever is necessary to become the character completely. To play driver and engineer Ken Miles in Ford v Ferrari, he hit the Arizona desert to learn advanced driving techniques from a top professional. The actor dropped an enormous amount of weight for The Machinist – more than 60 pounds — to play a character tortured by insomnia. He then reversed that (and then some) when he beefed up by more than 100 pounds to play Batman in Batman Begins.

His commitment to giving his all to every role hasn't gone unnoticed. In fact, it has come to be what critics and fans expect of him. He's received numerous nominations for his talent, along with plenty of wins, including an Oscar and a Golden Globe for playing Boston-based boxer "Irish" Micky Ward in 2010's The Fighter. Bale utilizes his craft to blow minds for a living, and he's trained us to wait for each new film release with feverish excitement.

Margot Robbie is very versatile

In 2013, Margot Robbie starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, a rollicking look at high-stakes finance. She played Naomi Lapaglia, a former model with a big personality. Since then, she's been on a roll, with one juicy part after another. Robbie herself earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of ice skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya, then brought Sharon Tate to life in In Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. She switched gears as Kaya Pospisil in Bombshell, which is based on the testimonials of different women who suffered workplace abuse at the hands of Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News. Her expressive performance effectively conveys the terrors of working in a toxic environment.

In 2016, she went high-voltage, joining the DC Extended Universe as the funny, freaky Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, later revisiting the role in Birds of PreyIt seems like there's no challenge she won't accept, then pull off with aplomb.

Rose Byrne will crack you up

It's hard to find a star these days who doesn't have a superhero movie or two on their resume. Rose Byrne is no exception: She appeared as Moira MacTaggert in X-Men: First Class, and again in X-Men: Apocalypse. The Australian-born star has been acting since she was a kid, racking up years of theater, TV, and film experience.

In 2007, Byrne began the first of five seasons starring in the TV show Damages. Her character, Ellen Parsons, is an up-and-coming NYC lawyer who takes a job with Patty Hewes, played by Glenn Close. Throughout the show, viewers get to see Byrne's character evolve from an eager and somewhat innocent young professional into a weathered lawyer quite familiar with the seedy underbelly of big business and corporate law.

When it comes to comedy, her chops are top-notch as well. Byrne is hilarious as the snobby Helen in Bridesmaids, a country club wife with no job and habits born of privilege and boredom, including drinking wine, shopping, and being competitive with other women. Neighbors and Get Him to the Greek are other notable comedies in which she garners big laughs. Byrne isn't just talented — she's multifaceted.

Strange teens are Charlie Heaton's specialty

In 2016, a tiny, fictional town in Indiana started to experience some pretty weird things. Stranger Things, that is. The show, which follows a group of bike-riding tweens who partner up with a mysterious girl named Eleven to find their missing friend Will, was an instant hit. Charlie Heaton plays Will's older brother, Jonathan, who is seen by many of his peers as vaguely weird. Thus, the English actor's career was launched.

Keeping the freaky vibe alive, Heaton recently starred in The New Mutants as Sam Guthrie, AKA Cannonball, a lesser-known X-Men character. Guthrie is one of a group of mutant teens trying to understand their superpowers while being held in a creepy institution against their will. Cannonball's special gift is the ability to fly at super-sonic speed while encased in an impenetrable shell. The movie finally hit theaters in 2020, after years of delays. Hopefully, fans won't have to wait that long for their next Heaton performance.

Robert Pattinson is much more than a vampire from Oregon

An actor can only hope to earn a fanbase as devoted as Twilight'sAfter being cast as Edward Cullen, the vampire heartthrob of the series, English actor Robert Pattinson's career exploded. That type of devotion can cause some hurdles, however. Sometimes, fans get so locked on to an actor in a defining role that they can't imagine them as any other character. Recently, when it was announced that Pattinson is going to star in The Batman as the titular superhero, fans of the character weren't immediately convinced that he was the right person for the job. Though it's been years since the last Twilight movie was released, Pattison still registers as Edward for many. A good remedy for seeing what he's capable of is easy: Just take the time to watch some of his other work. 

There's definitely no shortage of post-Twilight performances in Pattinson's filmography. In Good Time, Pattinson played a New York City bank robber frantically trying to get his brother out of police custody. Or perhaps you might prefer his starring role opposite Willem Dafoe in the surrealist horror, The Lighthouse. How about Pattinson as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes? Worry not, fans: Batman's in good hands.

Idris Elba knows his way around a crime scene

London-born actor and producer Idris Elba wears more hats than just those two — he's also a DJ, a kickboxer, and a musician. He's been on a slew of popular British shows, including Absolutely Fabulous, Family Affairs, and Bramwell. And of course, he starred in Luther, where he gave a consistently exceptional performance as a brilliant detective with his own way of doing things. 

HBO's crime drama The Wire is responsible for making him a household name across the pond. As Russell "Stringer" Bell, a complex drug kingpin in Baltimore, he blew viewers away. It's a show that is often regarded as one of the best television dramas of all time, and Elba is a huge part of why. Obsessed, American Gangster, and Pacific Rim are just a handful of the movies he's done since.

The Suicide Squad, slated to come out in 2021, is Elba's next big project. Initially, Elba was going to take on Deadshot's role when Will Smith became unable to do it due to scheduling issues. Things didn't quite end up going that way. Instead of taking over Smith's part, Elba stars as Bloodsport, a ruthless DC Comics mercenary.

Isla Fisher's comedy skills are as gripping as a Stage 5 Clinger

Isla Fisher manages to steal plenty of scenes in the 2005 hit comedy, Wedding Crashers. She plays Gloria Cleary, but it's no surprise if you're more familiar with her as a "Stage 5 Clinger."  The term, which is basically a different way of calling someone a stalker, has earned a permanent place in the cultural vernacular. When she hooks up with "crasher" Jeremy, played by Vince Vaughn, he deems her interest in him a little more serious than he'd like, but, just like viewers, he ultimately becomes infatuated with her quirky nature. Initially, Gloria seems like a bratty airhead with boundary issues, but as the movie progresses, she reveals that she's smarter than she gets credit for and has an endearing side. Fisher easily moves between her character's personality traits using astute comedic chops to keep viewers laughing, interested, and surprised.

Born in Oman, Fisher was raised in Australia and started acting at a young age. She's proven her comedy skills in various movies, over the course of many years — Harmony Korine's The Beach Bum and buddy comedy Tag are two particularly good showcases of her talent. She can take that frenetic energy and channel it into drama too, as evidenced in The Lookout and Nocturnal Animals.