INTERCEPT: TWoP Blows Lennie James's Cover
One of the things that happened for me is, when I left drama school and started acting professionally, I would say out of my first seven jobs -- three of them, maybe four of them -- required an American accent, so I was kind of used to doing American accents on British stage. I did a number of August Wilson plays, and the last play I did before I left to come out to America was "A Raisin in the Sun." My first professional job was a play called "Short Eyes," which was set in an American prison, so I've played American quite a few times back home.
That being said, playing an American back home and playing an American here are two very different things. I worked with a dialect coach -- a fantastic dialect coach that was recommended to me and has not only become my coach but also a very good friend, a guy called Shawn Melton -- and we took what was the truth that Hawkins states when he first arrives to be the truth. When he first arrives, he says, "I am an ex-police officer from St. Louis," so we were on a kind of generic St. Louis accent. But because we were aware that this guy was kind of military or special services, it was the accent of a guy who may well have had his roots in St. Louis, but also was a guy who had traveled, and also was a guy who was used to working undercover -- so who are those people? Those are the people who don't want to stand out, those are people who just want to blend into the background, so we took his accent to be one that was basically from St. Louis, but -- over time and necessity -- had become kind of generic, had become kind of bland. He could be from anywhere.
Occasionally, what would happen is in scenes with his family, you got more of the sense that he was from St. Louis with southern roots, but when he was doing his job, he could be from anywhere. And we took examples of guys who grew up in army families. You know kids of army families, a lot of the time because they're traveling all over the place, their accent becomes, like I say, just kind of generic. It's from somewhere in America.
And I have to say, my first day filming the pilot -- and at that time, I wasn't working with a dialect coach -- but my first day at filming the pilot, I don't think in my whole career I've ever been as nervous as I was at that particular time. But again, friendly crew, friendly cast, and very inviting and supportive, and it was made very easy for me. One of the things I'm most proud of -- or the one I think I get the most kick out of -- is when people either come to visit the set or people stop me in the street and are very complimentary of Jericho or of my role in it, and when I start speaking, are surprised that I'm English.