Some actors can do flawless accents, others come by them naturally, and still others have a hard time mastering accents. Accents arise when an actor speaks English as a second language, and also in English-speaking actors of various nationalities. The truth is, there are acting jobs in Hollywood and foreign entertainment industries for people that speak all languages, even English, with an accent.
How an Accent Can Help an Acting Career
The ability to speak a different language or with an accent is a trait that is desired in Hollywood, not something that is frowned upon. Many actors list language and accent skills on their resumes under a "Special Skills" section to open themselves up to a wider variety of roles. When casting directors see a desired skill, they are more willing to call actors in for appropriate roles. In essence, an accent can give actors an advantage when it comes to characters that also have a certain accent.
On another note, actors with accents have the option of pursuing careers outside of Hollywood. This is a common route for many foreign actors who want to work in Hollywood. For example, Marion Cotillard and Javier Bardem were stars in Europe before they ever made it to Hollywood and guess what? They both still speak with an accent, French and Spanish respectively.
Limitations of an Accent and Dialect Practice
Of course, actors who speak English with an accent may be limited in terms of characters they can play, at least to start. While a specific accent can help in some cases, if a role calls for a native English speaker, then an accent will not be acceptable. That is why it is important to audition for roles that are attainable and practice English on the side. In fact most acting classes will include the ability to adopt other accents, thus opening up a larger realm of opportunities.
Famous Actors who Have Natural Accents
Non-American actors have a long history in Hollywood and many have used their accent to establish a brand of their own. One example is Colombian actress Sofia Vergara who speaks with a heavy Spanish accent. However, her accent has become something that defines her and is viewed as an exotic, attractive trait. Furthermore, in her show Modern Family, Vergara's accent is a common source of comedy in the plot.
A similar example is Jackie Chan, whose accent helped endear him to English-speaking audiences and gave his martial arts films a sense of authenticity. Like Vergara, Chan's Chinese accent was actually a benefit to him, especially while working on comedic films. Also, Chan and Vergara are major stars in their home countries, where everyone speaks English with the same accent!
Just because Hollywood is in America doesn't mean that all films are set in America. Therefore, all the characters in Hollywood films are not native English speakers and some will inevitably speak with an accent. Actors that speak with an accent will naturally be at an advantage when these roles are cast. Even though some roles will be off limits, having an accent is a trait that defines an actor and makes them the unique performer that they are.
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