8 British and Irish TV Actors America Should Shamelessly Steal

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8 British and Irish TV Actors America Should Shamelessly Steal

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | February 16, 2013 | Comments ()


Is British television actually filled with more talented actors? Surely not. Maybe it's my myopic Anglophilia speaking or, more likely, the fact that I only bother watching what's already been vetted as the very best of BBC and (to a lesser extent) ITV, has to offer. Regardless, there's a treasure trove of talented UK residents who we Americans could stand to see more of. And I'm not talking about stuffing them into "Game of Thrones" or some other accent-heavy project. The networks and cable stations are already packed to the gills with fake Americans (e.g. Vampire Bill on "True Blood," Daniel Grayson on "Revenge" and my most recent WTF discovery, Maggie on "The Walking Dead"). We could shove them in anywhere! Here are ten talented British and Irish TV actors who I'd love to see more of without, you know, having to bootleg their latest BBC series.

Jessica Findlay Brown-"Downton Abbey" No longer employed by ITV, Findlay Brown has a lot of options. And while she could try her hand at feature films, I think this Edwardian Scarlett Johansson would burn brightest on the smaller screen.

Michelle Ryan-"Jekyll," "EastEnders" America already tried putting this one in the failed "Bionic Woman" project. And I think for many UK residents she'll always be a soap actress thanks to her long run on "EastEnders." But I always loved her so much in that "Doctor Who" one-off "The Planet Of The Dead." However, thanks to an unfortunate resemblance, she may now find herself thought of as the poor man's Lady Sybil.

Dylan Moran-"Black Books" As a bookseller myself, I have a weakness for Moran's delightfully odd and wine-soaked "Black Books." Truth be told, however, his acerbic stand-up is equally delightful. He could easily pull off a Hugh Laurie-esque vehicle.

Andrew Scott-"Sherlock" I hated what Andrew Scott did with the Moriarty character at the end of Series 1, but by the close of Series 2 he had completely won me over.

Richard Coyle-"Coupling" I never understood why Jack Davenport (of "Smash" infamy) emerged from "Coupling" with the career. Coyle was far and away the most enjoyable person on that show. Plus, he has the distinction of appearing in the only Terry Pratchett TV movie that didn't actively make me blush for everyone involved.

Anna Chancellor-"The Hour" I was crushed, of course, to hear that "The Hour" would not be returning for a third season. I'm not too concerned for the future of Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw. They'll be fine. Anna Chancellor, however, is a lady actress of a certain age and while we might remember her fondly as Duckface from Four Weddings And A Funeral or the deliciously evil Caroline Bingley in the only "Pride and Prejudice" that matters, I'm not sure The Powers That Be will see it the same way. Her portrayal of Lix on "The Hour" was devastatingly good. CJ Cregg on steroids. I love her. I want her in everything.
lix gif-1.gif

Arthur Darvill-"Doctor Who" Free at last from being killed over and over on "Doctor Who," I hope our lovely Centurion doesn't disappear from us forever.

Jessica Hynes-"Spaced" It's absolutely unfair that Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright have left Jessica Hynes out of all their filmic fun. (A cameo in Shaun Of The Dead doesn't count.) I don't know their reasoning. Maybe she's a terror to work with. But she's an absolute delight to watch.

Russell Tovey-"Being Human," "Him & Her" While his "Being Human" co-star was busy smoldering all over Middle-Earth in "The Hobbit," Russell Tovey was a) stuck with the worst "Sherlock" episode and b) not in my life enough. We need more of him. Allons-y, America.

It wasn't until I was nearly done here that I realized Dustin had done this before. He is forever scooping me. Did I scrap my post? No, f*ck it, left it in. So, if you're wondering where Ruth Wilson and Philip Glenister are, they're here.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Herr Elvis

    I agree with those on this list with whom I am familiar.

    I second the suggestion to add John Simm.

    And while he is a dwarf in The Hobbit, I would like to add James Nesbitt because he is awesome and probably won't get the US career boost he should.

  • e jerry powell


    Joanna, just wanted to tell you:

    I'm putting a hit out on Ben Schwartz. How dare he. (ETA: 2015)

  • Nathan Convey

    Richard Coyle was brilliant in Covert Affairs. He and Piper Perabo had great chemistry. So good that the Auggie/Annie thing kind of sucks in comparison.
    Yes to Jessica Hynes. Daisy Steiner is my favourite female character of all time (sorry Scully) and the fact that Simon, Edgar & Nick (though I love them all dearly) get the lions share of the attention (some people treat her like she wasn't co-creator) is a bit shitty.

  • FerrisBaxterian

    Zawe Ashton

  • Conor

    First off, I wanna say thanks to Joanna for making this a UK AND Irish list instead of just a UK one. We always get thrown in with them on American lists, despite, y'know, being our own country and everything.

    Secondly, give it a year or so more and you'll have a bunch of new Irish actors to add in here, most notably Robert Sheehan, who some of you may recognize from Misfits.

    Gonna be our next Fassbender.

  • "Jessica Findlay Brown...could try her hand at feature films,"

    Jessica is way ahead of you. She just filmed Winter's Tale with Russell Crowe and Colin Farrell.

  • Ozioma

    Fuck yes to Peter Capaldi from that other list. That man had me at "He's as useless as a marzipan dildo" and I've never looked back since.

  • Ofir Fishkin

    i think Jessica Hynes has three children. maybe she decided to take a break.

    lets hope she will come back soon.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and Ginger! We gotta steal those guys.

  • Guest

    90% of the cast of MI-5/Spooks. It's absolutely saturated with heavy hitters.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    You forgot Robert Sheehan.

  • 724wd

    "Oh, JEFFERY!"

    how awesome was Coupling?!

  • Three_nineteen

    He is on Covert Affairs now (or was - I don't watch it, just know from previews).

  • TheShitWizard

    Nominationg Super Hans, Peep Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • TheShitWizard

    After lending him my DVDs, my brother told me I WAS Daisy from Spaced. I don't know whether to be thrilled as Jessica Hynes is awesome, or horrified/amused that my brother clearly thinks I spend my time bogling in front of the bedroom mirror for 'research'.

  • Rig

    Jessica Hynes has an extremely successful dramatic movie career. And she IS in Shaun of the Dead. She just has other shit to do. Everyone's friends, they just chose different (successful) career paths. Please at least do a little research before you throw shade.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Toby Stephens please. And you all will be pleased to know he's Dame Maggie Smith's son, so there's that as well.

  • NoPantsMcLane

    I came on here to say Dylan Moran should have been on the list, because he is usually always left off these lists, and then i saw he was on here. Now i'm having a good day.

  • One of these days we're going to have to toss you and 'Pants_are_a_must' into the Thunderdome and see who comes out.

  • chanohack

    I concur very very much with Jessica Findlay Brown. I love her so. I want to be her. I wish she was in everything. She's super hot. I may not ever completely forgive Downton Abbey for killing her off.

  • Allijo

    I'd like to add Bradley James from Merlin. The best acting on that show, and he had some cheese to deal with. His facial expressions are his biggest assest, and he far outshown Anthony Head in many a scene. The sublety with which he performed the series finale was so fantastic. Just...brilliant. What action/comedy/drama can we put him in?!?

  • May224

    I agree 100%. Bradley James was/is hands down the best thing to come out of Merlin. With his talents, looks and charisma he'd be an asset to any show or film, no matter where it was made.

  • As a Brit, leave our TV alone I've seen how you butcher it. Seriously though some of these people need bigger careers across the Pond; Dylan Moran needs to be in more places.

  • CurlieQt

    Not enough Coupling love in this thread

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Sarah Alexander! Gina Bellman!

  • pumpkin

    I'll throw in a bunch!

  • Can we give them Gwyneth permanently? She does like to speak with that faux accent...

  • BWeaves

    Can we have Peter Capaldi, please?

    I first saw him in Torchwood: Children of Earth, and was very impressed.*
    THEN I saw him as Malcolm Tucker, and he blew me away.

    Please, please, please, can we keep him, please.

    *OK, I saw him on Doctor Who first, but he didn't hit my radar until Torchwood.

  • logan

    Yeah lets pitch "Two Girls and a Fish and Chips shop" to Fox!
    Which Fox will cancel after 4 episodes no matter what.

  • Lindsey Gregory

    I always thought Idris Elba was American (from the wire) but then I heard him speak, and my drawls fell off. Glad he's not American. I know that ref. was gratuitous but....yeah. Idris.

  • The Replicant Brooke

    I now love the word "drawls."

  • Julie

    Jessica Hynes! Dylan Moran! Russell Tovey! Add John Simm, and I'm on board.

  • Jessica Hynes branched out on her own as a writer and actually during the first season of spaced was already starting her family.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Right and I sawr her in a lovely play ("The Priory" with Steph's favorite, Rupert Penry-Jones) when I was in London. I know she's not living out of a box and I'm sure she's very fulfilled emotionally and professionally. Unfortunately, I CANNOT FOREVER BE WINGING TO LONDON TO STALK HER. Would that I could. So having her on American TV would make my lazy self very happy indeed.

  • pajiba

    I want to steal Brendan Coyle, too. But not for American TV. For TK's basement.

  • Luke Anthony Matthews

    I love Tovey's ears. That is all.

  • Drake

    His ears are a thing of beauty. So is his butt.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Gawd, really? They're practically Frankenstein's Monster neck bolts.

  • damnitjanet

    I adore all of these people, but, oh DEAR FLUFFY JEEBUS, I want to hug and squeeze Russell Tovey (who was also in 2 eps of Doctor Who) Add Lenora Crichlow and you've really got one hell of a list.

  • Mrs. Julien

    "I was home. I had a bun. I enjoyed it because I knew you were waiting." Dylan Moran

  • Arran

    "Are you happy with your mortgage?" I'm not even sure about this bacon sandwich.

  • Quatermain

    As long as we're stealing people, we should nab the dude who played the bad guy in the first Sherlock Holmes movie and the woman who played Donna Noble on Dr.Who.

  • duckandcover

    We technically did. He's making a US remake of his UK show (movie? IMDb gives me strange info), Low Winter Sun.

  • PDamian

    Mark Strong? Yes, please!

  • JoannaRobinson

    Mark Strong is busy trying to pretend he's not bald in, like, every movie ever.

  • mswas

    Every time I see him, I struggle to comprehend that he is not Andy Garcia after some weird surgery.

  • mats19

    THIS! I love the guy to death but he was never meant to have hair ever.

  • Euh... have you seen The Office lately?

  • Quatermain

    To be honest, Dr. Who is the only thing I've ever seen her in, but she was really good on that.

  • ...and some more fun with Catherine Tate & languages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • In that case, allow me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • ljridley

    I've been forcing my niece and nephew to recite "Donna is the best companion." on demand. However, I think my nephew has been seduced by Amy Pond (which is fine, but Donna is better).

  • chanohack

    Donna IS the best companion. And Quatermain, if you love Donna, you might as well just stick to Doctor Who. You'll love her more there.

  • Steph

    Rupert Penry-Jones please!

  • fluff_fluff

    He hasn't been in a ton of stuff, but I was super impressed with Daniel Kaluuya in The Fades and Black Mirror. Would for sure like to see him in more stuff.

  • lowercase_ryan

    In return can we send them:

    - Adam Levine (I'm shipping him and Barry SO hard)
    - Julianne Hough
    - Katherine Heigl
    - Sarah Jessica Parker
    - Kristin Stewart
    -Tyler Perry
    - Adam Sandler

    - Kevin James
    - Larry the Cable Guy

    Totally fair right?

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    I'm not cool with this exchange. I don't read the Daily Mail, so I've no idea who the British wastes of space are, but I'm going to go ahead and guess we've got some. Or we could just send you the entire fucking Tory party.

  • e jerry powell

    No thanks. We have enough mindless conservatives to get us through the next millennium or so.

  • Blake

    + James and Dave Franco.

  • Lindsey Gregory

    Not a fair trade dude....but let's try it.

  • Quatermain

    I like Larry, he makes me laugh. I'd swap him out with the dude who played John Carter...that was a massive disappointment.

  • PerpetualIntern

    You stay away from Tim Riggins! Texas forever!

  • lowercase_ryan

    This is where I say that I respect your opinion and that's cool that you like Larry the Cable Guy. But it's not, and I don't, so I won't. I loathe him.

    no offense.

  • Quatermain

    This response also made me laugh a little. None taken, dude. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea.

  • JoannaRobinson

    If they're really good, I'll let them have Megan Fox too.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Judd Apatow will fight you for her, in a totally non-creepy way. Actually I think they can have him too.

  • Basement Boy

    Dylan Moran is my idol! ...and the main reason I bought a region-free DVD player, so glad I did. Glad to see Jessica Hynes on the list too!

  • kirivinokur

    Delightful Shaun of the Dead leftovers.

  • ceebee_eebee

    Don't worry about Anna Chancellor. Brit TV doesn't put women out to pasture the way american tv does. She's in a west end play until Septembet, on Pramface (which is admittedly shit), and has guest spots on a million other shows. She's on telly more than any other actor from the Hour, save Capaldi. And for this I am grateful every single day.

  • MissAmynae

    I'll always love her for "What a Girl Wants." And yes, I'm being entirely serious.

    Fuck anybody that judges me, that movie has Colin Firth in Leather Pants.

  • nini

    yes yes and yes!

  • APOCooter

    I just came to express my satisfaction with the picture that accompanied the Facebook post for this article.

  • lowercase_ryan


  • Average Jane

    I'd say go after anyone who has ever had a recurring role in Being Human. They're all amazing.

  • damnitjanet

    And NOT the dogshit 'murcan version, either.

  • John G.

    I miss Spaced. Why do British shows have to have so few episodes?

  • e jerry powell

    Less desperation than American broadcast networks for advertising-driven revenue? (Jennifer Saunders excluded, love her as I do.)

  • Because over here they don't need endless choices and dangling of entertainmment carrot than ppl in the US.

  • kirivinokur

    Maybe they're smarter? See UK Office vs. US Office.

  • pajiba

    So that you will miss them when they're gone, instead of resent them for never leaving.

  • e jerry powell

    Twelvety-bajillion upvotes.

  • John G.

    and so Edgar Wright can go on to become an awesome director of movies, and Simon Pegg can become an action star.

  • duckandcover

    Well said.

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