Quick Acting Tip: Accents

Alright, so, get this. This past week in my acting class I had to do a scene from Joss Whedon’s The Nevers, which is currently streaming on HBO. My scene partner, whose an older American gentleman, whereas I am British-American, was getting very caught up on the English accent. Every character within this show has a very distinct way of speaking, and particular accents that all emphasize who they are as people, and who they are in relationship to each other. Just check out the trailer below to hear it for yourself!

© Courtesy of YouTube

I’ve noticed, that a lot of beginner, or “green”, actors — not to say that my scene partner is a beginner, in fact, he’s definitely seasoned. But I hear a lot of actors say, “Well it’s not really me. It’s not my voice. I can’t focus on the relationship because I’m too in my head about the language.”

Well… No. You’re just not asking the right questions, and frankly, you’re just not doing the work.

The fact is, it is you. As a professional actor, you wind up using yourself and your inner emotions and applying them to different context and situations. You are the character that you play, in essence. That includes the language.

Yes, you do have to study the accent, but it goes deeper than that. Start asking yourself the right questions:

“Why does this character talk like this?”

“What was this character’s upbringing?”

“Why does he or she have this particular accent?”

“How does this character want the other character(s) to feel about him or her?”

“How does this character want to be perceived by others in general?”

“Why does this character have this particular tone and word choice?”

I’m going to tell you now, the answer is not because that they were simply born there. That’s not specific enough. It’s not a hot enough choice. That is a very surface answer. On more than one occasion, haven’t we all met plenty of individuals from a particular town or city whose accents vary and whose word choices are distinctly different? It goes far deeper than, “The character was simply born there.”

Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly in The Nevers © Courtesy of IMDb

Learn to use yourself, without limitations. Find a reason for being. Find a reason for being where you are. Find a reason for speaking and for using the language in the way in which you do. The more specific you become, the easier it all falls into place.

Start with you. The first thing you will need to do, is to determine exactly which dialect(s) you’ll want to learn.

Do some research. Once you know the exact accent you’d like to start with, hit the Internet to begin gathering video and audio samples of native speakers who use this accent. YouTube is a goldmine to start your research. Reach out to anyone who you know in your day to day life, who has the accent that you are trying to embody.

Then, contact a qualified coach. You know which accent you are targeting, you’ve listened to it and you’ve practiced it on your own, therefore it’s time to take your skills to that professional level. Learning an accent before you need it in an audition will make you, not only comfortable, but confident when the accent arrises for your next audition. Furthermore, it will allow you the freedom to focus on your intentions and the relationship within the scenes.

Remember, it all works together.

IDEA (International Dialect of English Archive)
A database featuring recordings of native speakers.

VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainers Association)
The organization offers a library of resources on all of the topics of voice and speech.

A catalog of comprehensive sound change sheets, audio and video files for purchase.

Knight-Thompson Speechwork
This site offers workshops with certified teachers as well as articles on topics connected to phonetics, speech, and accents.

The Dialect Coach
Take a lesson from dialect coach Joel Goldes.

Book a reader for your next self-tape.

Thank you for reading, my Darlings! If you liked this article, be sure to check out my other work Here. Or, connect with me directly Here.

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Buffy Lover & Whiskey Drinking Gent. I Pen Screenplays, Novels, & Also Act. Founder/CEO of Bellator Magazine, a Bi-Annual Coffee Table Book ✍🏼🥃🎭🇬🇧🇺🇸

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Buffy Lover & Whiskey Drinking Gent. I Pen Screenplays, Novels, & Also Act. Founder/CEO of Bellator Magazine, a Bi-Annual Coffee Table Book ✍🏼🥃🎭🇬🇧🇺🇸

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