That’s the question that viewers often ask when watching British comedy on public television. It’s not unusual to see your favorite British comedy actor or actress step out of the roles that we have become friends with over the years and stretch themselves using their formal training in period drama, contemporary drama, hit movies, American “sitcoms” or even regional theatre and West End stage performances. Can’t say that I can say the same is true with their American counterparts. Somehow, Bill Murray in Razor’s Edge comes to mind. That said, Bill Murray in Lost in Translation is genius as was Rushmore.
Sometimes heard, but not seen
With the recent release of Nine (with Dame Judi Dench wonderfully lending her voice to the part of Lilli), I’m reminded also of how many British stars lend their voices to the silver screen.
In many cases, it’s a treat to see the likes of Richard Briers or Patricia Routledge in a dramatic role. The acting talents of these and other stars of the Britcoms allow one to immediately divorce yourself from the character that you’ve come to know and love over the years and immerse yourself in the new character. Next time your at a video store, in need of that next fix from Netflix or channel surfing at 12midnight, check out these and treat yourself to some time well spent viewing.
Dame Judi Dench – “M” in recent James Bond movies, Cranford, Pride & Prejudice, Shakespeare in Love (Queen Elizabeth), Mrs. Brown (Queen Victoria), Room with a View, Chocolat and the previously mentioned Nine
Geoffrey Palmer – Doctor Who, Ashes to Ashes, Mrs. Brown, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and The Madness of King George. Look for Geoffrey in single episodes of Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Absolute Power and Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin
Frank Thornton – Gosford Park and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (with Zero Mostel)
Patricia Routledge – Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
Clive Swift – Born and Bred, Peak Practice, Doctor Who and Heartbeat
Geoffrey Hughes – Heartbeat, Doctor Who, The Royle Family and, believe it or not, Geoffrey was also the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine
Dawn French – Lark Rise to Candleford, Harry Potter (the Fat Lady in the Picture) and Murder Most Horrid
John Cleese – The Day the Earth Stood Still (remake), James Bond films, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third (voice of King Harold), Harry Potter (Nearly Headless Nick) and who can forget classic appearances on Will & Grace and 3rd Rock from the Sun. Also, you have to check out Romance with a Double Bass if you haven’t seen.
Richard Briers – Monarch of the Glen, New Tricks and Torchwood
Felicity Kendal – Rosemary & Thyme
Penelope Keith – The Avengers
David Tennant – Casanova and Hamlet
Any Britcom star sightings you’ve particularly enjoyed over the years outside the roles they are known for? If so, share.