It’s no secret that dozens of the best TV and movie roles in America have gone to British and Australian actors over the past decade, and this is particularly true for parts that skew younger. It’s become commonplace, but it’s more than a little staggering when you consider that those two countries have a combined population of 87 million, compared to 319 million in America.
With such a huge numerical advantage—not to mention the fact that American actors actually speak with an American accent—how do you explain this trend? Why do we need to look abroad for great young actors, particularly in our best TV dramas? When you look at characters like Stringer Bell and Jimmy McNulty from The Wire, or Rick and the Governor from The Walking Dead, or Jax from Sons of Anarchy, or Brody from Homeland, how is that British and Aussie actors are flooding our screens? Why can’t Americans measure up?
According to Michael Douglas, now 70, the issue boils down to social media. Speaking to The Independent, Douglas had some choice words for the rising generation of American actors.
“Clearly, it breaks down on two fronts. In Britain they take their training seriously while in the States we’re going through a sort of social media image conscious thing rather than formal training. Many actors are getting caught up in this image thing which is going on to affect their range.”
“There’s a crisis in young American actors right now,” he continued. “Everyone’s much more image conscious than they are about actually playing the part.”
He also insinuated that along with a lack of formal training, American males have slipped toward the feminine side of the spectrum.
“With the Aussies, particularly with the males it’s the masculinity. In the US we have this relatively asexual or unisex area with sensitive young men and we don’t have many Channing Tatums or Chris Pratts, while the Aussies do. It’s a phenomena.”
In this realm, any theory is by definition unprovable, but Douglas might be on to something—there’s a definite lack of gravity in many young American actors, and while we continue to churn out great comedic talent, the pool of dramatic superstars has dried up considerably. Whether a lack of masculinity, self-obsession, or some third element are to blame, it’s a bit embarrassing that countries half our size are producing superior talent with disheartening regularity. The crisis is real.