After Game of Thrones, you may think HBO and Sky Atlantic wouldn’t try to follow it with anything too dramatic or heavy-going.
However, they did. And it’s obviously paid off, as their new historical drama Chernobyl is currently the highest-rated TV show of all time on IMDb, and has been widely praised by fans and critics alike.
You can watch the trailer here:
The five-part series tells the real-life story of the tragic 1986 nuclear power plant disaster at Chernobyl, which killed countless people and turned the area into a ghost town.
While they showrunners wanted to do justice to the true story, they also made the conscious decision for the actors to not attempt Russian or Ukrainian accents, as they thought it would detract from the acting itself.
As writer/producer Craig Mazin said on the show’s official podcast:
The decision not to use Russian accents was a big one that we made early on. We had an initial thought that we didn’t want to do the ‘Boris and Natasha’ cliched accent because the Russian accent can turn comic very easily.
What we found very quickly is that actors will act accents. They will not act, they will act accents and we were losing everything about these people that we loved. Honestly, I think after maybe one or two auditions we said ‘Ok, new rule. We’re not doing that anymore.’
My hope is that the accent thing just fades away in seconds and you stop caring about it. Ultimately, a person’s accent is completely irrelevant to what’s going on because there are things happening that don’t even need an accent to be communicated – panic, fear, excitement, worry, sadness. They’re just emotions.
However, audience members have naturally picked up on the English accents, and Twitter is awash with people bemoaning the artistic license:
Watching Chernobyl and everyone has British accents?
— Brynn Metheney (@Brynn_Metheney) May 7, 2019
just had to google "chernobyl" to make sure it didn't happen in england because, for some reason, the show has very strong british accents
— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) May 10, 2019
Finally digging into Chernobyl—they gave British accents to the Russians?? THEY WHITE WASHED WHITE PEOPLE
— Johnny Mo (@Ethidopeian) May 21, 2019
Not entirely everyone online appears to be confused by this:
who cares if a show about chernobyl has actors that speak in british accents? you're gonna boycott it? would you rather it be in Russian then? no subtitles? you can fucking sit down and learn a cyrillic language to enjoy a television program? thats what you want? idiots
— cemetery hag (@sistersleaze) May 29, 2019
pointing out the actors in Chernobyl have British accents just makes you sound like a proud graduate of the CinemaSins School of Critical Buffoonery
— brinsonmarie (@brinsonmarie) May 29, 2019
Reading the comments about #Chernobyl, I see that some viewers are very confused by the British actors not putting on terrible fake Russian accents. I see their point. Like I love HBO's Rome, but it would have been way better if Caesar had to go, "It's ah me eh Juliuseh Caesar."
— Jenia 🇪🇺💚🇪🇺 (@schenior) May 29, 2019
The producers made the right call. Hammy Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins faux-accents would not do this production nor the memory of the tragedy justice.
Chernobyl is available to watch now HBO/Sky Atlantic.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.