Hugh Laurie from HOUSE

Have you noticed more of a unique twang to the dialog on TV this fall? It’s because there’s a growing number of actors and actresses from the British Empire who are doing their version of an American accent on their primetime shows.

She may be “made-in-America” on TV, but the beautiful Bionic Woman star Michelle Ryan is from Middlesex, England.

And you can’t get more English than Damian Lewis who plays the wrongly accused cop back on the beat in NBC’s great crime drama-mystery Life. Lewis grew up on Abbey Road in London and was educated at Eton College. Before getting Hollywood’s attention in HBO’s Band of Brothers, he performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Now a San Francisco newspaper reporter in NBC’s Journeyman, Kevin McKidd previously played a rugged Roman in HBO’s Rome. But McKidd is more comfortable in a kilt then a toga, since he comes from the highlands of Scotland.

The sympathetic vampire in CBS’ Moonlight, Alex O’Loughlin is from sun-drenched Australia. And his co-star is the London-born vicar’s daughter Sophia Myles.

There are many more expatriates, including the knock-out Bermuda-born Brit Lena Headey starring in the upcoming Fox series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, inspired by the Terminator action flicks.

Maybe we have Hugh Laurie to blame for all the outsourcing? After all, the English comedy star scored big time playing a grouchy egotistical American doctor on the acclaimed drama House, a hit for four seasons now.

Asked to theorized as to why the trend for British stars has exploded on TV, Laurie dryly offered, “I can only assume we’re cheap. I really can’t explain it. What drew me [to House] was an absolutely stunning script.”

Damian Lewis said he has turned down a number of American series in the past, “because it’s a big commitment. A potential six years if you’re on a hit show.”

But he also admitted he was seduced by “an intelligent script– witty, and intense. And since I read a lot of unbelievably crappy film scripts, I was drawn to do this extremely interesting series.”

Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment noted, “The past year we spent meeting with different actors from Australia, England, Ireland. We heard, over and over, that as more American shows are playing overseas, there are actors who are watching our shows, and they are impressed with the quality of the writing, the production values, and they were really intrigued about throwing their hats in the ring.”

David Eick, executive producer for the Bionic Woman series, revealed that “one of our casting directors from Universal found Michelle Ryan in the UK, and we watched her on an Internet feed. It’s the worst way to cast,” Eick admitted, “because you’re looking at someone on a tiny little screen. You’re really taking a leap of faith. But there was something about her that was very winning that made you pay attention to her. So Michelle was the one person in that context who we decided to fly in and meet.”

“Every pilot I have ever made,” Eick added, “has had a UK casting director, funneling tapes and such back from London. It’s prevalent in the industry. I just assume that’s how it worked for most people. It has become kind of the rage in the last couple of years, and everyone is looking for new faces.”

Eick also believes that “British performers have really nailed the craft of an American accent, and they are sounding effortlessly American. I think that has made it easier for American casting directors to take that leap of faith.”

Others have pointed out that British actors are looking to Hollywood because the once great television series in Britain are dwindling. Many complain that reality shows are taking over the UK, which echoes a similar complaint in Hollywood.

So why are there a lot of Brits over here? Damian Lewis gratefully explained, “Because you keep asking us. Thank you very much.”

Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.