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The Next Wave of British Actors

By Michael Herbertson

British Flag Purchased from shutterstock.

Watch out, US thespians! The Next Wave of British Actors could WIPE OUT you lazy, untrained, undisciplined, entitled, flash-bulb chasing Americans once and for all.

To start with, these young Brits are dedicated to the craft of acting. They value their training, work hard on their preparation, are constantly searching for authenticity throughout the filmmaking process, and don’t seem to take all the unnecessary ‘celebrity’ trappings to heart. Their top priority is doing good work, and letting the work speak for itself.

It’s true, to their advantage they come from a world where acting is taken very seriously and is considered an honored profession by the majority. In Great Britain there’s a long theatre tradition that goes back centuries: The Royal Shakespeare Company and RADA. There is recognition that if you want to be an actor, you have to pay your dues, which often involves long runs in the theatre and / or repertory work and intense, long training, that continues even after you’ve made it. It’s a world that values actors and sees acting as an art form.

Unlike the US, where the attitude is, ’Ummmm, Ok, I’m not really into this repertory thing and this class stuff, so could you just get me famous and I’ll worry about having the goods later? Casting directors are going to love me — my mother and father think I’m a revelation!’

There’s this rush to get out of class, get out of school, get a team to capitalize on their youth and beauty, get the big pay out, get on those red carpets, get the hits, get the dress, get on the covers and it’s destroying a true actor’s core and any remaining respect our country has for acting.

In the States, to the average Joe, being an actor and being a Kardasian are on equal footing. I’ve watched it up close over the last 14 years as reality stars and media platforms have blossomed — this entitled, loss of value and passion for training, very impatient new American actor brain develop is, ‘make me a famous actor even though I can’t deliver, they’ll edit me to look good, I promise, hire this one guy!’

American actors need to work on changing that general perception and stop playing into ‘celebrity’ and refocus back on acting, back on their craft, their soul, their truth, if they’re really interested in having longevity. Once an actor turns his or her back on their craft, and starts playing with ‘celebrity,’ giving ‘it’ more time, trying to control their image, their persona — I’m sorry, but it’s all over.

This Awards Season, which is going to be loaded full of Brits, hopefully will be a wake up call. After seeing Tom Hardy in THE DROP and Rosamund Pike in GONE GIRL do perfect American accents, I thought, “Oh yikes…it’s on now… game over kittens, you spoiled lil American brats better watch your backs!”

British director Stephen Frears (DANGEROUS LIAISONS, THE GRIFTERS) recently said, “There is a kind of crisis in American acting right now. It is very noticeable.” He added, “If I were being tedious, I would say it’s the lack of theater training. When you work with someone like Annette Bening or Glenn Close, they are highly trained. It’s like working with Judi Dench. They are the real thing. But a lot of American cinema actors don’t have that background.”

I do think that in general the Brits are better actors as of late. I’m inspired by good acting — I don’t care if they were born here. Here are a few of my current favorite Next Wave of British Actors:


Same intoxicating ingredients that Paul Newman and Brando had – great beauty, but an even bigger skill set. Incredible range, versatility, vulnerability, and haunting depth dominate his roles. Tom Hardy isn’t satisfied with you only admiring what he is on the surface. He changes the lustful alchemy of your gaze and turns your attention elsewhere and makes you think about something more. I have been completely going ballistic this year after seeing him in THE DROP and in LOCKE — which I think is one of the best male performances in the last 25 years. Right up there with Daniel Day Lewis in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. It’s that good. The versatile actor has been steadily working on both stage and screen since his television debut in the mini-series THE BAND OF BROTHERS, then the films BLACK HAWK DOWN, STAR TREK: NEMESIS, LAYER CAKE, SUCKER PUNCH and WARRIOR. BRONSON won Hardy his major critical acclaim and notice in the industry as being a major new actor on the rise. He’s ‘the Man’ right now.


An English actress who first came to international attention in 2002 when she played Bond girl, Miranda Frost, in DIE ANOTHER DAY. Since then her film roles have included Jane Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (2005), Helen in AN EDUCATION with Carey Mulligan (fabulous), and MADE IN DAGENHAM with Sally Hawkins (they shared the best scene in the film — fantastic). In the Canadian film BARNEY’S VERSION, she plays Miriam, wife to Paul Giamatti (she plays various ages - brilliant work). She’s now in the critically acclaimed GONE GIRL as Amy Dunne, based on the best-selling book. For this signature role and performance, Pike hired a graphologist (hand writing expert) to help her come up with a writing style for her character, even if it meant never showing up on screen. She wanted to cover all the bases, go beyond, be loaded to the gills before shooting. When I heard this, I got chills. I LOVE this kind of commitment to acting — to building a character with that specific detail. Fantastic!


Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch was born and raised in London. He’s come up in the industry since film and TV have had equal respect. Making his mark in both, and in theatre, he’s criss-crossed between the three mediums with ease and dignity. His television work includes the magnificent Tom Stoppard adaptation of PARADE’S END in 2012. He has played Sherlock Holmes in the series SHERLOCK for which he won the Emmy for Best Actor. His first film appearances were in TO KING A KING (2003) and AMAZING GRACE (2006) and he’s since appeared in the films ATONEMENT, TINKER TAILOR SOLIDER SPY, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, WAR HORSE and 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Through voice and motion capture - he played the characters ‘Smaug’ and ‘the Necromancer’ in THE HOBBIT film series. This Awards Season he shines in THE IMITATION GAME, a British-American historical thriller about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code that helped the Allies win WWII, only later to be prosecuted for being a homosexual.


This talented young English Actress won the Special Jury Prize (Dramatic) at the Sundance Film Festival for her performance as Anna in LIKE CRAZY — a career trajectory changing moment for her. During the low budget shoot of LIKE CRAZY, she had to do her own hair and makeup, and entirely improvised the dialogue. It was her breakthrough role, going on to Ralph Fiennes’ THE INVISIBLE WOMAN, and Julie Taymor’s THE TEMPEST co-starring Helen Mirren. This year we will see her star in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING as Stephen Hawkins’ wife Jane. Her hard work is expected to be nominated and perhaps win the biggest awards this season. She just played Felicia Hardy in THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2. She’s expected to reprise the role, and take on the super-villain persona of Black Cat in further installments of the franchise. And is shooting Juan Antonia Bayona’s horror fantasy A MONSTER CALLS with Liam Neeson and Lewis MacDougall.


He was born and raised in London, he is one of five children, and the only member of his family to follow a career in acting. He is best known for co-starring as Marius Pontmercy in the musical film version LES MISERABLES, and starred with Michelle Williams in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. He has won an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in the stage production of RED. He also received the 2011 Critics Circle Theatre Award for Best Shakespearean Performance for his portrayal of Richard II. This year he’s getting major Oscar buzz and acclaim from all major critics for playing Stephen Hawkins in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. I loved him in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, but the performance that really struck me (in a film I disliked) was in LES MISERABLES. I felt he was the only one that was able to pull in that close up, that intimate concept that the director wanted. Eddie then flowed right into song with a realism that those close ups demanded. Despite the film being poorly conceived, he followed the direction and delivered an intimate and nuanced performance and he sang beautifully. He’s a brilliant young actor — with major chops.

As the year comes to a close we’ll see lots of other accomplished, brilliant, British actors on those final Best Of The Year lists: Timothy Spall, genius, in MR. TURNER; Kiera Knightley, always rock solid, in THE IMITATION GAME; Vanessa Redgrave, one of the greatest of all time, in FOXCATCHER; Ralph Fiennes, his career best, in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL; David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo, both breaking-out big time, in SELMA; Emily Blunt, as Meryl says “Delicious,” in INTO THE WOODS; Tim Roth in SELMA; Charles Dance in THE IMITATION GAME; Sienna Miller in AMERICAN SNIPER; and Marion Bailey and Dorothy Aktinson in MR. TURNER.

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