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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Change Your Accent Part 2


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(This post was imported from an old blog):

So a strange thing happened after Part 1 of ‘Change Your Accent’. There was a HUGE controversy over a new children’s programme called ‘Rastamouse’. for those not in the know, Rastamouse is a mouse who happens to be Rastafarian) and he and his pals solve mysteries using intelligence and intellect. The programme is an offshoot from the original books, written in fact by a real Rastafarian.

Now there was a huge debate over how, if in fact at all offensive this mouse was to black people (which got my goat a bit since it was in fact written by a black Rasta) and whether it was poking fun. But what also came from the controversy was the fact that popular Presenter Reggie Yates was the voice for this mouse.

It seems that Reggie is of African decent and the fact that he was changing his accent to play a Caribbean role infuriated some people. . . . At first I wasn’t sure where I stood on this issue and then I began to think about my 1st ‘Change Your Accent’.

As an Actor I know that it is imperative at times to indeed change your accent. We are Actors and within this definition we pretend to be someone else. I myself have played and spoken with Caribbean, RP, American and Scouse voices. Did this make me a fraud or a phoney because I am a native Yorkshire lass? I believe not! I’m an Actor and the part required me to PLAY, to PRETEND.


I then began to look at other Actors, Naomie Harris (Tia Dalma in Pirates of the Caribbean) is Native London, Aml Ameen is in the US playing an American in Murphy’s Law, Idris Elba, Eammon Walker, Miss Joselyn Comedienne (in fact all comedians), Sean Bean, Ewan McGreggor, the list is endless!! These people all change their accent depending on the roles and have NEVER had as much stick as poor Reggie.

It’s a strange phenomenon and I’m not sure if it is a universal ignorance or one restricted to just the black community? I completely understand a need for a culture to be represented authentically and there are possibly a million Caribbean Actors who could have given Rastamouse an authentic voice, but I think this controversy answered my initial questions in ‘Change Your Accent Part 1′.

When it comes to Art and Play, I think we have to be a little flexible. For an Actor/Performer it may sometimes be necessary to change our accent, but as long as we do it as truthfully and as representative as possible, does it really do any harm? Answers on a postcard . .

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. I don't think it's an issue that is limited to the Black community. The same type of controversy surrounded Renee Zellweger playing Bridget Jones if I recall.

    While you bring up some interesting examples of other well known actors who have portrayed characters of other nationalities, these actors effectively own their characters and portray them realistically, accent and all.

    I've only seen a couple of episodes of RastaMouse, but being the child of Jamaican parents I can tell that Reggie Yates is putting on a Jamaican accent. He gives it a good shot, but it's still noticeable. Maybe this is the cause of some of the grief he's experienced?

    Compare this to Idris Elba in The Wire, and if you were to ask any fan in the US if they can notice an accent of any sort (besides the Baltimore accent he's portraying), the response will be more than likely no. Fantastic actor, fantastic ear for accents. Don Cheadle on the other hand? Fantastic actor, terrible attempt at a British accent on Ocean's. Terrible.

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