Rebecca Breeds on Mastering Clarice Starling’s Accent on ‘Clarice’

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“The accent just worked, and it informed the character so much for me. It made the character fit into my body on a whole other level…” – Rebecca Breeds

Few female film protagonists are as familiar to audiences as FBI Agent Clarice Starling, first portrayed by Jodie Foster in an Oscar-winning role in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. Actress Rebecca Breeds portrays Starling on the CBS series Clarice, set two years after The Silence of the Lambs. Speaking with Variety, Breeds speaks about one of Starling’s most notable characteristics — her West Virginia accent.

However, Breeds admits that she didn’t have a handle on Starling’s accent at first because she misunderstood the dialogue pages she received for the audition. She reveals:

“I’d seen the movie, but when I went to the audition, I was just reading it in a standard American accent because I wasn’t thinking too much about it because I had about 12 hours between getting 13 pages of dialogue and the audition. It was a very quick turnaround, so I was just like, ‘OK put words in brain.’ And at the top of the page, it did say Appalachian, but I thought it was a comment on her tone, her personality, the way she was in that particular scene. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks that ‘Oh no, you idiot, it’s the accent, duh!’ I immediately took to YouTube and listened to Appalachian accents and said, ‘All right, brain, time to convert that to the mouth.’ It was like the crystal slipper — a Cinderella moment, a little bit of magic — where the accent just worked, and it informed the character so much for me. It made the character fit into my body on a whole other level, and I really like character work, so the accent became a massive gift.”

Nonetheless, Breeds understands how intrinsic Starling’s accent is to the portrayal of her character. She explains, “I just felt like the voice and the way that Jodie built the accent is just so iconic. I’m not her and I’m not going to try and be her, but I feel like the accent is such a nice way to try and tie them together.”

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