British actor Lennie James could teach a master class on accents, after sounding like an authentic American in shows like Jericho and Hung.
“You don’t always want the character’s voice to be too much like your own,” he told Slate.com. “When I’m playing an American, I don’t play Lennie with an American accent. They’re American characters who look like me, but they have different voices. For Tony [Gates, his role in BBC’s Line of Duty] the voice was closer to mine, but I still tried to be aware of certain things that he would say in a way that I wouldn’t.”
James admits he doesn’t really choose projects depending on the country they’re representing. “I’ve worked in the theater, television, and films. A five-hour TV series is certainly more time than a character I’d be playing in a film. We did four months on Line of Duty from beginning to end, and that would be a long theater run. Also, a BBC hour is longer than an American television hour.”
“I will say that when I first came to the States to work on Jericho, that was the only time that I’ve ever been frightened about a job, because in America they tell stories over such a long time, and I was petrified that I’d get bored,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the writers’ room trying to make sure that whatever stuff they came up with would keep me interested.”