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When watching movies and series that need a character with a foreign accent (e.g. an Indian TV series that needs a British character, or an American movie that needs a French character), I've noticed that sometimes they will just go with a domestic actor who looks the part, and have them say their lines with a less-than-convincing accent. For instance, Alfred Hitchcock on El Ministerio del Tiempo, or some of the Jamaican characters in the second season of Luke Cage.

I would think that, if a good foreign actor couldn't be found, the easiest thing would be to simply have the domestic actor play the role, and overdub them with a voice actor with the appropriate accent. But many productions don't seem to follow this route, and stick with the inaccurate accent of the domestic actor. Why is this?

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TL:DR - They think no-one will notice.

I think sometimes there's a reason - Pete Postlethwaite with a dodgy perhaps Indian accent in The Usual Suspects - as the entire story was told by an unreliable witness, this character, with a Japanese name, Kobayashi, & an unlikely accent [there's even some Hungarian in there which my Hungarian-speaking partner tells me is utter tosh] feels like it's done to make the structure more 'unreliable'.

On the other hand, sometimes it's just lazy - they think people won't be able to tell the difference. 2½ painful series of Designated Survivor listening to an Australian, Ben Lawson playing a British MI5 agent was enough to set your teeth on edge.

I'm a Brit - I can tell the difference. Amazingly many Americans can't. The number of times in the US I've been asked if I'm Australian is just mind-boggling.

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  • I could also see it being the case that they would think people are more likely to notice dubbing than they are a bad accent. It's not necessarily that no-one would notice; but there could be legitimate concerns that even more people would notice if they tried to hide the bad accent with overdubs. – JMac Jan 14 at 15:47
  • I honestly think it would be more trouble than it's worth. You can overdub a voice completely invisibly, ADR departments do it every day for big budget shows… but why not, if you want a Brit, or a Frenchman, or an anything… surely it wouldn't be too much effort to find one in the US… I honestly think the accent is convincing enough for casting & no-one thinks to ask a native if it convinces them too. [reposted, to fix confusing typo] – Tetsujin Jan 14 at 20:09
  • Unsure if the incident where Americans can think British tourists are Australian is anything to do with TV and foreign actors. My family used to get that a lot back in the 90's when we'd go to America (all British). Coincidentally we're now living in Australia. Have to see what they think of that on our next trip to the US! – user25730 Jan 16 at 22:29

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