Why none of the 'Chernobyl' actors spoke in Russian accents

Why none of the 'Chernobyl' actors spoke in Russian accents

The most talked-about TV show since the end of Game of Thrones has been HBO's Chernobyl.

The dramatization of the 1986 disaster has won widespread critical acclaim, however, anyone who has sat down to watch it has inevitably been left wondering: why do none of the characters have Russian accents?

While the show's Ukranian setting is clear, for some viewers, including myself, the character's British accents were at odds with it. Now the show's creator, Craig Mazin, has explained why in its official podcast.

If you haven't seen it yet, this is the trailer for Chernobyl: 

"The decision not to use Russian accents was a big one that we made early on," he said. "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."

"At first, we thought that maybe we would have people do these sort of vaguely Eastern European accents - not really strong but noticeable."

A scene from Chernobyl. Credit: HBO

However, he said that this compromise simply didn't work, and it was soon decided that the best way to execute the show was to let the actors talk in their natural British accents.

"What we found very quickly is that actors will act accents," Mazin explained. "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.'"

A scene from Chernobyl. Credit: HBO

Mazin elaborated on why this was the right decision:

"For example, in Game of Thrones, anyone from Manchester will be asked to push that a bit so they can clearly be defined as Northerners. We would say, 'Take the edge off of it a bit' here and there. We'd let someone be Irish or Scottish because they sounded great and their character was good. Also, we're hearing people as they would have heard themselves.

A scene from Chernobyl. Credit: HBO

"There's no consciousness there," he continued. "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."