Large amounts of the history of television is written in the tradition of the cross-Atlantic remake. There are some particularly famous examples—probably the first one to come to mind for most people is The Office, and if it isn’t, it’s probably Steptoe/Sanford and Son. But it’s definitely an interesting phenomenon any way you look at it. It’s in part due to the distinct differences between American and British television. Just this morning, I was talking about how “she was on two episodes of the show” works out percentage-wise for a British show or an American show. But it’s also fitting in other cultural differences.
Ben Daniels and Sam Waterston are, in that sense, cross-Atlantic equivalents of one another in the Law & Order franchise. Law & Order UK, probably the most obscure entry in the franchise, is literally just remaking episodes of Law &Order Prime with British law. Daniels played James Steel, who may not always have been Jack McCoy But British—I think a few of the episodes were from the Michael Moriarty years—but was close enough.
It’s actually kind of surprising that the House of Cards he was on was the American, not the original British. I only got a few episodes in before deciding it wasn’t for me, so I honestly have no idea what the plots were like, but I suppose it’s not unusual that a British person would somehow be involved in stuff in Washington, DC. Or he could be doing an American accent, which is also not exactly unusual in the history of British actors.
Though his Exorcist character is British, it seems. Of course, national origin in The Exorcist is left vague in several places—where exactly is Max Von Sydow’s character from? But presumably this means he uses his natural accent, not a fake American one. He hasn’t exclusively played British characters—let’s start with Mercutio—but going over his list of credits, I’m not sure he’s ever actually played an American. That’s surprising.
He also firmly believes he loses roles for being openly gay. (He says it’s not so much that he’s out as that he was never in.) He is probably not wrong. He assumes it’s the higher-ups at places like the BBC, more than it is actual directors and things, and he’s probably not wrong there, either. He does get steady work, but I’m a little curious as to what roles he wishes he’d been able to get.