Awesome Aussies

There are more Australian actors appearing in American TV series than meet the ear.

By RUTH BELOFF
November 12, 2010 12:24
3 minute read.
Aussie Alan Dale with Judith Light on 'Ugly Betty'

311_Aussie on TV. (photo credit: Courtesy)

We all know the big names – Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Paul Hogan (“Crocodile Dundee”)... the actors and actresses from Down Under who made it big in Hollywood, adding that extra bit of charm with their Aussie accents. But not always. They could also dial up flawless Americanese when the role required – one of the hallmarks of a well-polished star.

It is no surprise, then, that there are many Aussie actors displaying their talent on the small screen as well. What is surprising, though, is who they are. That is, there are Australian actors who portray their American characters so well, with American accents that are so impeccable, that if you didn’t know they were Australian – well, you’d never know they were Australian.

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Take Alex O’Laughlin, for example. He was a recent guest on The Ellen Show. I didn’t recognize the name when Ellen introduced him, but when he strode on stage I recognized him as the cutie who starred in Moonlight, the erstwhile vampire series I used to watch. He is now starring in the remake of the cop series Hawaii 5-0. In Moonlight, he had reminded me of a young Don Johnson: a cool, handsome, classic all-American guy. So imagine my surprise when he began to speak to Ellen, and out came that unmistakable Australian twang.

And he’s in very good company.

For starters, speaking of Ellen (De Generes), her life partner, Portia de Rossi, is Australian. She recently played Veronica Palmer in the sitcom Better Off Ted and was also featured as Lindsay Bluth Funke in the sitcom Arrested Development and played Nell Porter in Ally McBeal.

And speaking of Ally McBeal, Calista Flockhart (no, she’s American) shares her airspace as Kitty Walker with an Aussie TV sibling in the series Brothers and Sisters. Rachel Griffiths, who plays her sister, Sarah, is a consummate actress who has appeared in many Australian films.

Local TV audiences may also remember her in the role of Brenda Chenowith in the dearly departed drama series Six Feet Under.

Another surprise for me (also a guest on Ellen) was Simon Baker. Looking like the typical boy next door from anytown USA, Baker starred as attorney Nick Fallin in the TV drama The Guardian and now plays psychic consultant Patrick Jane in The Mentalist.

Similarly, when I saw Rose Byrne interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, she really threw me for a loop when she began to speak in her native accent. Her portrayal of law school graduate Ellen Parsons on the New York-based series Damages is so good, it seems almost effortless. Another corker for me was Emilie de Ravin. The entire time I was watching runs and reruns of the sci-fi series Roswell, I knew that the character of Tess Harding was an alien from another planet, but only when I saw De Ravin as Claire Littleton on Lost did I realize that the actress was from another continent.

And speaking of Lost, Alan Dale is a total class act. From the formidable Charles Widmore in that long-running series to magazine magnate Bradford Meade in Ugly Betty and business tycoon Caleb Nichol in The OC, the dashing 63-year-old Dale had been a household name in Australia for years.

And remember Prison Break? News flash: The wrongly accused Lincoln Burrows was played by Dominic Purcell, who was born in England but moved to Australia at the age of two. The character may have broken out of the fictitious Fox River Penitentiary, but the actor never broke into his true Australian accent.

All these performers look and sound as American as apple pie. Who would have thought that when the cameras stop rolling, they go home and throw another shrimp on the barbie.

Now, there may be many more Aussies on our local TV airwaves that I am not aware of, but as far as I know they are still under the Down Under radar.


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