The British Actors Came!

judi dench Via our friends at Hamner Theater (who posted it way back in early March) there is an ongoing debate in Hollywood about British Actors, and why they seem to be disproportionately represented in movies.

A writer at Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Labrecque, claims that directors use British actors because they’re better, and they’re better because British ‘classical’ actor training gives them greater range, and the centering of both English film and stage industries in London give them experience in both, while the American centers of film and stage are separated by a continent.


Labrecque doesn’t discuss that British training is cheaper than American conservatory training, and that British actors who are just starting can get a lot more work. Or at least they once could. (The link is to an essay by Ian McKellen about the decline of British regional repertory theater where so many legendary British actors cut their teeth.)


Another factor of the British acting invasion is that while England offers more opportunities to start out so actors can hone their craft and make a living, the British system has fewer opportunities for stardom, especially for the UK’s black actors.


British TV shows tend to have shorter runs, British movies smaller releases, so superstardom doesn’t exist.


The British system does seem to be a better place to start. I think the phenomenal growth of longform improv in America in the last decade has a lot to do with fulfilling some of the needs here that the British classical system offers over there.

  1. Like British actors, longform improvisers get to regularly play parts that American directors would never cast them in. This stretches their range a lot.
  2. Like British actors, longform improvisers get to perform regularly even when they’re just starting out, even when they’re working other jobs.
  3. Like British actors, longform improv experience is applicable to everything from auditioning for low-budget commercials to big screen movies.
  4. Like British classical training and unlike Method, longform improv offers concrete physical skills in addition to conceptual tools.
  5. Like British classical training, longform improv can be learned at a fraction of the cost of an acting conservatory.

By the way, Big Blue Door’s next Improv 1 class is expected to run on Tuesday evenings starting the first week in June. We’re still pinning down the details. Email if you want us to send you an email when it goes online for registration.

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