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Cult Spy: Brit Thesp = Cult Success?

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Last week in Cult Spy we took a look at the distinctly ‘hit and miss’ nature of the female Brits who have tried to take US cult TV scene by storm. So in an age of supposed sexual equality it’s only fair to gauge the success of the British blokes who have set sail for American shores. A group of young Brits are currently plying their trade on Lost, but the track record shows that the a few middle age thespians paved the way for this new breed. Regardez...

Patrick Stewart - Star Trek: The Next Generation

Such was the impact of Patrick Stewart's audition for the role of Jean-Luc Picard, the Star Trek: The Next Generation producers departed heavily from their initial visions for the character. Stewart’s lack of hair was initially a big concern for the television moguls – who tried fitting the actor with a hairpiece – but thankfully it was decided that he should be cast on the quality of his acting, and not a cynical attempt to lure a youthful demographic. Also, the Enterprise commander hailed from France, yet Stewart's classically trained English accent was still kept.

Seven multi-award winning seasons followed, with Stewart later being handed the big screen Star Trek baton by William Shatner and subsequently starred in three X-Men films. Hailing from Huddersfield, Stewart previously spent many years deploying his thespianism in classical drama and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stewart always denied 'selling out' by making the move Stateside. After all, why should being a Venitian Merchant be any more dramatically worthy than a Starship Enterprise commander?

Edward Woodward - The Equalizer

The actor, probably capable of bagging roles on the sheer beauty of his own name, battered his way into millions of US homes as ex-CIA agent Robert McCall in cult eighties show The Equalizer. Following McCall's bid to even the scores of innocent people, this violent and glossy show was a far cry from Croydon-born Woodward's humbler beginnings as a Shakespearean stage actor. Nonetheless, he swiftly notched up an impressive four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor during the 88 episode run.

The Equalizer shared several themes with his earlier British foray into the world of espionage with ITV show Callan in the late Sixties. Cult immortality soon followed with the lead role in the film The Wicker Man, playing the investigative copper who meets a grizzly end. Woodward returned to UK shores in the mid 90s in popular BBC drama Common As Muck. More recently he had a role in Hot Fuzz.

Anthony Stewart Head - Buffy The Vampire Slayer

We’re not sure Head's time studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts could quite prepare him for the demonic horrors that awaited him on the streets of Sunnydale, but what possibly could? Playing an undercover ‘Watcher’ masquerading as a school librarian in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Head brought a smooth finesse to the role that perfectly counterbalanced the angst-ridden teens surrounding him. Seven seasons and cult immortality followed, with much talk of a Giles spin-off series towards the end of the run.

However, this series wasn’t the first time that the actor made heads turn on both sides of the Atlantic. For throughout the 1980’s he starred in a series of annoying popular coffee adverts, making a living from the bean-flogging activities. Since Buffy ended in 2003, Head has popped up in various British shows, most notably appearing as the Prime Minister in Little Britain, but also playing a villain in a second season episode of Doctor Who.

John Rhys Davies – Sliders

Best known for his roles in the Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings trilogies, Welshman Rhys-Davies headed up the cast of sci-fi series Sliders for its first three seasons in the latter half of the last decade. The Welshman played pompous but soft-centred Professor Maximillian Arturo, helping one of his physics students after he discovers how to open up wormholes to parallel worlds.

However, those daft number crunchers at the network weren’t too happy with the demographics watching the show. In a move akin to the criminal axing of Daniel Benzali from Murder One, the suits ousted Rhys-Davies and brought in a younger replacement. Bad move. Ratings tumbled and the show was axed after two more seasons of deteriorating quality. The moral of the story? Don’t sack the Brits!


Of course, we could be a bit naughty and try to pass the likes of London-born Kiefer Sutherland as one of our own, even though he was barely around the land of beans on toast for more than 24 hours. Hey, we nab a few foreigners for sporting purposes like Greg Rusedski and Kevin Pietersen – so why not do it culturally too?! Oxfordshire-born Wentworth Miller is another one who slipped the net, breaking out of Britain and heading to Brooklyn at a very young age. Perhaps he scrawled an escape route in crayon on his nappies?

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