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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

there’s a reason why there are so many fantastic British (and Canadian, and Australian) actors

An article at Good to Be Bad called “A Complete Guide to the Brits Who Will Steal the Major Film Awards from Americans” dredges up the age-old question of why there are so many awesome British actors working in Hollywood (and Canadian and Australian and New Zealander actors, too).

This isn’t the only reason, but it’s a big one:

Nationalized health care.

It means you can spend your 20s (and 30s, and beyond) pursuing a creative career without worrying about getting sick or about taking care of your family’s health.

It’s a lot harder to be an actor — or have any kind of creative career — in the United States. And a lot riskier. Which is why fewer people can pursue acting to the same level that wannabes in other countries are able to.

posted in:
awards buzz | talent buzz

  • RogerBW

    It’s a start, at least.

  • Judy

    Absolutely spot on. I predict an explosion of creative endeavors, along with a spectacular burst of entrepreneurism in the US once the Affordable Care Act really kicks in and people don’t have to be so fearful anymore. I can’t even begin to count the number of people I know who have “worked for the benefits” for years and years.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It’s an interesting theory but I don’t know that it tracks.

    Statistically, over the last decade Commonwealth actresses have captured 32% of Best Lead Actress noms, but only about 20% each of the other three categories, for a total of 23% of the acting nominations. (Actors from other countries have combined for another 11%, meaning 2 out of 3 Academy Award nominated actors are Americans.) Americans outnumber Brits, Canadians, and Australians by a margin of 2.6 to 1, but capture Academy Award noms at a rate of 2.9 to 1. If anything, Americans are slightly over-represented relative to other English speaking actors, though both groups are drastically over-represented relative to the rest of the world. Commonwealthers do win disproportionately (44%), but I think that’s a different issue.

    “Wannabes”, kind of by definition, don’t factor into the uppermost echelons of the field. Bad actors aren’t going to become award winners no matter how their health care is paid for. And good actors have a better chance at working enough to qualify for union benefits. It’s possible that if more Americans in general pursued careers, then Americans might all-but-completely dominate the Oscars. But I don’t see that as a forgone conclusion, nor would it necessarily be a good thing (the way universal health care in America would).

  • It’s not just about Oscars — or any awards — but an overall proportion of non-American actors in American entertainment. (And who says Americans should dominate the Oscars? That’s not what this is about.)

    Of course wannabes don’t win awards. But all award winners were wannabes at one point. You don’t get to be good at whatever you do unless you do it for a long time, often with little success along the way until one big break comes along. Surviving until that break comes along is harder in the U.S.

  • Health care in the US is still outrageously complicated and expensive under ACA. I don’t think it’s going to help much.

  • Jurgan

    I disagree; it’s already helped my wife and I a lot. Still too complicated, granted, but a lot less expensive.

  • Kathy_A

    I was just listening to an Afterbuzz TV recap of an old Sing-Off episode, and the commenters were talking about a few singers in the competition who were sick during that episode, and they pointed out that these young 20-something people could actually get some decent health care while the competition was happening, paid for by NBC and the show’s producers.
    A sad commentary on the US health system…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, it was the impetus of the discussion. And it seems as good as any means of quantifying the distribution to see if this is an actual thing, or the perception of a thing. Might be a better choice to look at SAG-AFTRA memberships by nationality. But if the union publishes those kinds of statistics, they’re not turing up on a cursory Google search. But without some kind of data (beyond the anecdotal “Gosh it sure seems like there are a lot of Brits in Hollywood”) the fundamental assumption here is questionable at best.

    I don’t question that it’s harder to work a job like acting if you’e worried about your health insurance. (Although, if their ACA enrollment numbers are any indication, young Americans aren’t all that worried about their health insurance.) Under an American Universal Health system, you might see more people striking out as actors. But, they would be competing for the same jobs. And there’s already fierce competition. You might see more faces, but you’d be seeing them less often. So, while those young actors might not have to worry about paying their doctors’ bills, they’d still be struggling to pay their rent.

  • dosssse

    This is what I think.

  • bronxbeegirl

    although i was told recently that the lack of work and the cost of living in britain is leading to the rise of only “posh” actors (i.e., benedict cumberbatch) because they come from a wealthy enough background that they can afford to wait years to beccome real working actors.

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