In days gone past, a British actor made it big in the US by playing the villain. Ian McKellan in X-Men, Alan Rickman in Die Hard, Jeremy Irons in Die Hard: With a Vengeance and most of the Imperial Starfleet in the original Star Wars trilogy consisted of British actors. But in TV it seemed harder for British actors to make their mark. There were British stars in supporting roles, such as Anthony Stewart Head as Giles in Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Alex Kingston in ER, but rarely did a British actor make it to that starring TV lead role.
But things have changed. We're arguably in a golden age, with everything from Game Of Thrones to The Americans to The Walking Dead. And, more significantly, there has been a change in leading TV roles. No longer do you have to be American to headline an American show... us Brits have shown we've got more than enough talent to take centre stage. Here are some of the big British players that have made it successfully across the pond...
15 Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel)
Freddie Highmore was an adorable British child actor, proving he had the acting chops to deliver leading performances even at a young age. He appeared in several big family films, from Five Children and It, to Finding Neverland and The Spiderwick Chronicles. But it was as Charlie Bucket in the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Family that he was most remembered for.
14 Michael Sheen (Masters Of Sex)
Newport-born Michael Sheen is one of several Welsh actors on the list to make it big on the US. After years on the London stage and several appearances in films, he made an impact overseas playing David Frost in Frost / Nixon and then more recently as pioneer Dr. William Masters in Masters Of Sex.
13 Hugh Dancy (Hannibal)
The British actor and husband of US actress Claire Danes started out on gritty British TV drama Trial And Retribution, and other homegrown dramas from Cold Feet to Dangerfield. Hollywood film Ella Enchanted started his exposure over in the States, but after further appearances in TV and film it was critically-acclaimed US horror drama Hannibal that showed the world just how good an actor Hugh Dancy could be.
12 Ruth Wilson (The Affair)
Idris Elba might be synonymous with Luther, but his co-star over the first three seasons was just as essential. Ruth Wilson's Alice Morgan was a chilling serial killer with a strange but alluring connection to John Luther and her absence in last year's fourth series was notable. But there was a reason Wilson was AWOL; she was busy working on The Affair.
11 Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire)
On the flip side is Ruth Wilson's co-star and fellow brit Dominic West. The Wire was his first big TV role, playing Detective James "Jimmy" McNulty for 60 episodes of the acclaimed drama. He then went on to start in a number of movies including 300 and (briefly) Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
10 Ioan Gruffudd (Forever, UnREAL)
Ioan Gruffudd is one British actor who certainly made his mark in the US, moving on from a regular British TV role as Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower to star in films such as 102 Dalmatians and, of course, the first two Fantastic Four movies. And while keeping his very British charm, Gruffudd as also made his mark - like many movie actors as of late - on US TV.
9 Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy)
Newcastle-born Charlie Hunnam first shot to fame playing innocent 16-year-old Nathan Maloney in Queer As Folk. With the focus on Russell T Davies' acclaimed drama about a group of gay men in Manchester, Hunnam found himself in the spotlight and gaining roles from Nicholas Nickleby to films Cold Mountain and Children of Men. But it was with Sons Of Anarchy that he really made his mark in America.
8 Damian Lewis (Homeland, Billions)
From Band Of Brothers to Life, London-born Damian Lewis had already done incredibly over in the States. But it was Homeland that cemented him as a leading TV actor in the US, portraying prisoner of war-turned traitor-turned spy Nicholas Brody over three seasons.
7 Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Hayley Atwell had been acting long before Captain America: The First Avenger came along, but it was playing the kickass, confident love interest to Steve Rogers - Peggy Carter - that stuck her firmly in the limelight. Carter has become the biggest of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe's female supporting stars and it was only a matter of time before she was given her own TV series.
6 Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Sticking with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is one British actor who has firmly cemented himself as a leading superhero on the TV screen. Charlie Cox has become the very successful Man Without Fear Daredevil. Like Atwell, he had a good career before the Netflix / Marvel show, appearing in movies such as Stardust and having a recurring role in Boardwalk Empire. But after his debut last year in Daredevil there is no turning back.
5 Tom Ellis (Lucifer)
Cardiff-born Tom Ellis has had a number of significant roles in British TV, from Miranda to Merlin with some presence over in the US. But it is in Lucifer, that Ellis has really made his mark, playing the Devil himself in this US TV loose adaptation of the Vertigo Comics series of the same name.
4 Matthew Rhys (The Americans)
Like his co-star Keri Russell, The Americans star and another Cardiff-born Matthew Rhys was nominated for an Emmy this year for his role as Phillip Jennings. And it's not the only award he has been nominated for, such is the gripping performance by Rhys as the Soviet intelligence spy posing as an American married couple in the 1980s.
3 Lena Headey (Game Of Thrones, The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
Lena Headey is one the biggest cult actresses on TV and film. She's been the small screen Sarah Connor, Queen Gorgo of Sparta in the 300 movies, Ma-Ma in the big screen remake of Dredd and, of course, Queen Cersei Lannister in Game Of Thrones.
2 Hugh Laurie (House)
If House was still on the air, Hugh Laurie would probably be at number 1. Executive producer Bryan Singer famously said only an American could play Dr Gregory House and when he saw Laurie's audition tape he turned to his crew and said “See, this is what I want: an American guy” - not realizing, of course, that Laurie was a British actor mustering the perfect American accent.
1 Andrew Lincoln (The Walking Dead)
Andrew Lincoln might be known as the grizzled leader of human survivors with a Southern drawl in The Waking Dead, but it is a far cry from his early days playing neurotic Edgar "Egg" Cook in This Life. This British look at a group of 20 somethings in 90's London launched the careers of Lincoln and co-star Jack Davenport.
From there he went on to headline the brilliant British comedy series Teachers, had a major role in gritty British drama Afterlife and was part of the star-studded ensemble in Robin Curtis' Love Actually. But it was playing sheriff Morgan Grimes that really allowed Lincoln to make his mark in the US. And while there is always a chance he'll become zombie fodder, hopefully he'll be around to the very grim end. And after that, surely Lincoln will have his pick of roles.
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