Here is our list of 20 celebrities that you had no idea they were British. With some of these names, you are in for a massive surprise.
1. Idris Elba
Elba is already a huge international star with several hit movies to his belt, the most recent being the latest Star Trek installment that gathered more than $250 M at the box-office this summer. Best known to many Americans for his iconic role as drug baron Russell Stringer Bell in the TV cult hit The Wire, he also starred in such blockbusters as Thor, The Jungle Book and Pacific Rim.
It wasn’t until his BBC hit TV series Luther became a huge success in the U.S that he became known as a British actor. Elba admits that he is getting more recognized in America than in the UK.
2. Tom Hiddleston
Who knew that Thor’s mischievous brother Loki was actually British nobility? His ancestry goes back to the defeat of the Spanish Armada and he has admirals and lords in his bloodline. Tom was born in Westminster, London and studied at the Royal Academy. Although the entire planet became aware of his existence when he played Thor’s brother, Loki, almost stealing the show from Chris Hemsworth, Hiddleston made his debut in the UK in several TV movies and in several successful theatre productions.
He appeared in famous UK production Archipelago, playing the leading role of Edward. On TV, he appeared in BBC’s detective drama Wallander, alongside Kenneth Brannagh, who was to direct him in the first Thor installment, playing Magnus Martinsson.
3. Andrew Lincoln
Fighting zombies is best done with a British pedigree, don’t you think? It is very hard to believe that the iconic The Walking Dead main character, with all his quirks and perfect southern accent is not actually born in Atlanta Georgia. Well, he isn’t. Andrew Lincoln was born on September 15, 1973 in the heart of London. He grew up in Hull and attended school at Beechen Cliff.
After graduating in London, he went on to become a successful TV actor on major BBC dramas alongside other famous actors of his generation, like Tom Hardy, Burn Gorman and Charlotte Riley. He made his breakthrough performance in the famous UK comedy Love Actually.
4. Dominic West
West became best known in the US following the success of The Wire, as the lead character, detective Jimmy McNulty. Few could have guessed he is actually British, judging by his pitch perfect Baltimore accent. But the actor hails from the heart of the UK, from Sheffield, actually. He was born Dominic Gerard Fe West in October 1969 and comes from a devout Irish Catholic family.
It looks like West is so good with accents that along his career he has been playing many different nationalities with great success- from Spanish to Ukrainian, from French to Spartan.
5. Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Another famous example of a thespian who you would have never taken for a British born is this veteran TV actress who made an impact as Vivian Johnson in Without a Trace. Her rather thick and convincing New York accent in that series was one of the things that factored in for her success. A little known fact about her is that she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her part in Mike Leigh’s Cannes winning movie, “Secrets and Lies.”
Born in London, Marianne attended London’s iconic Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, so she has classical training as well.
6. David Harewood
Another famous Englishman in Hollywood is David Harewood whom you have recently seen in superhero TV series Supergirl. Hard to believe as it may be, Harewood was born and grew up close to Birmingham in a family that has roots in the Barbados. He went to St. Benedict’s Junior School and Washwood Heath Comprehensive School.
As a member of the National Youth Theatre, he played many classical roles from Shakespeare to Pinter. He went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In Hollywood, he became best known after his breakthrough performance as David Estes, the Deputy Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, in Homeland.
7. Kiefer Sutherland
Now that is definitely a great surprise! Who would have thought that Jack Bauer, the CIA operative who saved the U.S. from terrorist attacks so many times, in the hit series 24 can actually be anything else but American? He might not have an English accent at the moment but the son of iconic actor Donald Sutherland was in fact born in London. His actor parents were both stationed in the UK at the moment for various roles they had to perform.
As a result, Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland was born on December 21, 1966 in a London maternity. The funny thing though, is that he considers his true nationality Canadian, which is only logical since he completed his dramatic studies in Vancouver and only moved to L.A. to pursue an acting career when he was 20.
8. Christian Bale
Yeah, you read it right: Batman himself hails from Wales, England. Christian Charles Philip Bale was born in January 1974 in Haverfordwest, Wales as the son of a South-African talent agent and a Welsh circus performer. A dedicated character actor from a very young age, Bale became a star at the tender age of 13, after catching the eye of Steven Spielberg, who cast him in his 1987 Empire of the Sun. In 2000, Bale made waves as the controversial Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.
His many successful credits include a head-turning performance in 2004’s The Machinist, a part for which he lost 63 pounds to portray the main character. He portrayed Batman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in David O. Russell’s The Fighter.
9. Naomi Watts
Oscar nominated actress Watts actually began her acting career in Australia, back in 1986. But she was born in Shorenham Kent, on September 1968. The daughter of an antiques’ dealer and a costume designer, she lived in Australia between the ages of 2 and 8. After her father’s death, when she was 10, Watts moved with her mother and brothers in North Wales.
In her teens, she moved back to Sydney where she completed her dramatic studies and became best friends with Nicole Kidman, who actually helped her land her first TV role. After years struggling for a breakthrough in Hollywood, Watts was cast in David Lynch’s excellent Mulholland Drive in 2001. This success brought her another role in Japanese thriller’s Hollywood remake The Ring.
10. Naomie Harris
The pretty actress has enjoyed success in Hollywood action movies such as Miami Vice and Ninja Assassin, or the Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean. Few know she actually comes from London and is a classically trained actress. She was born on September 6, 1976 to a Trinidad- Jamaican family.
She started acting at 7 and she graduated from the most famous drama school in London. She also studied social and political sciences in Cambridge. As a British actress, her most prominent role was alongside Daniel Craig in James Bond hit Skyfall.
11. Tom Hardy
If you’ve only seen him in critically acclaimed The Revenant, a part that brought him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor, it is hard to believe that Hardy is born in the heart of London. And yet, the actor that many deem as the best of his generation was born in the Hammersmith district in London, on September 15, 1977, the son of a novelist and an Irish painter.
Classically trained, Hardy had his share of BBC productions to his belt, from Oliver Twist to Wuthering Heights. In Hollywood, he was first noticed by Ridley Scott who cast him in his ensemble film Black Hawk Down. His true breakthrough came with Christopher Nolan’s Inception and then as Bane in the same director’s The Dark Knight trilogy.
12. Charlie Hunnam
The son of a business owner and a famous London gangster, Charlie Hunnam was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear. Hunnam studied theory and history of film from the Cumbria College of Art and Design and graduated in 2002. The actor who will soon be seen as King Arthur in Guy Ritchie’s anticipated adaptation of the Knights of the Round Table legend has become famous with his main part as Jackson Jax Teller in cult FX series Sons of Anarchy.
He was first noticed by producers following his scene stealing turn in Elijah Wood film Green Street Hooligans.
13. Damian Lewis
If you have only seen him in hit U.S. series such as Life or Homeland, it is hard to even suspect that Lewis is British, hailing from a noble UK family, his grandfather was Lord Mayor of London in the 1970’s.
And yet, this versatile actor has portrayed a few iconic British literature characters such as Soames Forsyte in the BBC latest adaptation of The Forsyte Saga and portrayed Henry VIII in critically acclaimed Wolf Hall. Of Welsh descent, Lewis (who was recently anointed OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) was born in St. John’s Wood, London and graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1993.
14. Stephen Moyer
The fascinating actor who portrayed vampire Bill Compton in HBO’s cult series True Blood may have a smooth, musical southern accent that woos the main character Sookie Stackhouse into falling in love, but there is nothing real to that accent. The actor was born in Essex, and graduated from LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art), spending most of his early career on theatre stages as a classical actor.
Moyer made his big-screen debut landing the lead role in the film adaptation of romantic movie Prince Vailant. His true breakthrough though came in the long-running role of reluctant vampire Bill in True Blood, alongside Anna Paquin, who also became his wife in 2010.
15. Wentworth Miller
This is another actor whom you have a hard time associating with any British descent. He was so good at playing an American accent in hit series Prison Break, that it can be hard to believe he was actually born and spent most of his childhood in the UK. Born to American parents in Oxfordshire, Miller has Dutch, Jewish and African-American ancestry.
When he was just a little boy, his family moved to Brooklyn where Wentworth continued his studies. After landing a few minor TV roles, he made his breakthrough debut as the younger version of Anthony Hopkins’ character in The Human Stain.
16. Hugh Laurie
Yeah, television’s most famous doctor, Dr. Gregory House himself hails from the heart of the UK. The producer of House MD himself, Bryan Singer, had no clue that Laurie was not American, while the actor was auditioning for the role. Before he became known as the witty and disturbed TV medical genius, though, he was a bona fide star in the UK as the other half of the comical TV act Fry and Laurie, alongside his life-long friend Stephen Fry.
Laurie studied at the famous Eaten College to become an archaeologist but due to a sports’ related injury he was forced to abandon and join the Cambridge University’s dramatic club.
17. Carey Mulligan
Most recently, Mulligan has been starring in big Hollywood hits such as The Great Gatsby, Drive or Inside Lewellyn Davis. But few know this young actress was born in Westminster and has classical studies to her name. She made her debut in 2005 in Emma Thompson’s critically acclaimed Pride and Prejudice, playing Kitty Bennett.
She played in many BBC productions and even appeared in one of the best Doctor Who episodes back in 2012. In 2009 she gained the world’s attention with her star turn in An Education, a part that brought her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.