It’s been happening for the past few years: British actors are invading Hollywood.
From Damien Lewis and David Harewood on the Showtime counter-terrorism drama Homeland, to Andrew Lincoln on The Walking Dead, Charlie Hunnam on FX’s biker drama Sons of Anarchy and Matthew Rhys on FX’s The Americans.
By most accounts, the trend started with the Harry Potter films, for which author J.K. Rowling insisted that Warner Bros used British actors. Since then, it has become more common, especially in television.
The latest such British actor to invade Hollywood is Adam Rayner. After starring in the BBC drama Hunted (which was co-produced by US network Cinemax), he went on to star in a pilot for a rebooted version of The Saint and more recently landed the lead role in FX’s middle-eastern thriller Tyrant, which tells the story of the son of a dictator who returns home for a wedding with his American family and finds himself drawn into the workings of the turbulent Middle Eastern nation
Landing the lead was a real coup for Rayner, who himself admits that he’s “never really come up with a satisfactory answer” as to why British actors are suddenly invading Hollywood. He doesn’t think it’s a question of talent, however. “It’s certainly not that we are better actors”, he says, “there are some amazing American actors out there.”
That being said, FX and FX Productions did have a hard time casting the lead for Tyrant. They looked at numerous American actors and were stumped. They wanted an actor who both looked authentically Middle Eastern and could lead a prime-time US series, a seemingly impossible task until Adam Rayner come through the door.
And while certain corners bemoaned the invasion of Brits in Hollywood, casting a “foreign” actor as the lead made sense. After all, Tyrant certainly has an international flavour. It was directed by Brit David Yates (who coincidentally worked on the Harry Potter film series) and was shot largely in Israel, before moving to Turkey when the Gaza conflict erupted a couple of months ago.
Even so, it is still a decidedly US show, with a much larger budget than most British series. “In the US, you get a real sense that this is a real billion dollar business”, Rayner notes. “In the UK it always feels a little bit more of a cottage industry”.
The former Hunted co-star said that while bigger budgets bring a “different atmosphere to things”, at the end of the day it’s still about the finished product. Whether it’s the US’ bigger budgets and their “slick production lines” or the “group effort atmosphere” that arises from UK producers “putting the money where it counts”.
For his part, Adam Rayner said he really enjoyed his time on the show and appreciated the unmatched professionalism of the US crews. “I really loved working in the States because of the fantastic level of professionalism and enthusiasm. People really take pride in what they do on a film set no matter what their job is and that is unmatched by anyone else in the world.”
Tyrant premieres on FOX UK on Friday September 12th at 9pm.