Belfast Telegraph

Peaky Blinders' Sam Neill gets Ulster accent tips from Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt

By Amanda Ferguson

He was once accused of having a "mangled" Northern Ireland accent.

So Sam Neill turned to Liam Neeson and Jimmy Nesbitt for advice on how to hone his Ulster brogue to sound more convincing.

The New Zealander was born in Co Tyrone but claims he never had a native accent to lose after leaving at the age of seven.

Hollywood A-lister Neill is back on our TV screens this week in the period gangster saga Peaky Blinders. As the second series of the crime epic set in Birmingham in the 1920s makes its return to BBC Two on Thursday, the Omagh-born star will be once again performing with the much-criticised Ulster accent.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph magazine, he revealed how he sought assistance from Co Antrim actors Neeson and Nesbitt.

"I don't think I ever had an Ulster accent. My mother was English and my father was English-educated," said the 67-year-old.

"They'd never had any accent so what I had was what I had at home.

"Both Liam and Jimmy were very helpful, not least because they have entirely different accents, which kind of liberated me.

"I'm sure there are people who will say: 'That's a crap accent'. To which my answer is: 'I'm sure there's someone in Northern Ireland who speaks like that'."

Last year Belfast Telegraph television critic Joe Nawaz described Neill's Detective Inspector Chester Campbell in Peaky Blinders as having "one mangled Ulster accent".

The actor said he found it difficult not to increase his speaking volume when he took on our distinctive voice – even referencing the late Ian Paisley as an example.

"You know, we've all heard Paisley and people like that – it's a voice that's very well-suited for standing on a street corner and giving it hell," he added.

Background

Sam Neill plays puritanical policeman Chief Inspector Campbell in the Peaky Blinders. The story centres on the gang who sew razor blades in the peaks of their caps and their dangerous boss Tommy Shelby. Drafted in from Northern Ireland to clean up Birmingham, Campbell is a big, brutish man, completely committed to his job and determined to get it done. The first episode of the second series airs on BBC Two on Thursday.

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