And what does “well” even mean?
If like myself, you’ve relocated to London/New York/LA/Canada
to pursue acting then there is a very good chance that the accent you boast isn’t the native one for that country. And this means it will affect your chance of nailing those parts. Yes that is correct. You risk work chances if you can’t speak in the right accent confidently. When the casting director posts a notice asking for a ‘Cockney London’ accent, they don’t mean a half RP half Australian blend.
The reality is there is 99% chance there will be more work in the native tongue in any country you visit. However that should NEVER stop you. Why? Because millions of actors made it before you. And, because many will after you too. And here I move to two different schools of thought.
The actors who choose to keep their accents as they are:
Arnold Schwarzenegger… “I’ll be back”.
His stardom was not limited by his accent. In fact, this Austrian born actor was able to spend years in Hollywood successfully forging his career forward without ever changing his accent. I don’t think I ever heard him speak a role with anything but his own original accent. Do you know of any?
Take Cate Blanchett. I don’t even know what her natural accent sounds like she is so convincing playing the roles she does. Okay perhaps that is a mini lie given that she is a fellow Australian. But every time I see her I am stunned by just how good she is with accents, how diverse her range is, and how perfect every accent is (at least to my ears).
There is no right or wrong way to move forward but you do need to know which direction you want to work in. For some, consistency works. For others who are brilliant at accents and easily able to maneuver themselves into any accent role offered, they may want to go for many and varied parts.
I know speaking from experience I have both won and lost significant roles based on my ability or otherwise to do a variety of accents. I’ve been fortunate enough to have role genders, ages and accents changed just for me…yes, that’s right – even the gender. When I went to audition for the role of the nurse in The Pharmacist they called later that day and invited me back to audition for the role of the older male Scholfield, a much bigger meatier role. I was obviously delighted (and the role was changed to a female part for me). And in another role in the film Tangled Up in Blue that went on to win a number of awards including ‘Best Film’ recently, the director had no problem with my character having an Australian accent. They just needed the lead actor to be able to justify why. The backstory was enough.