'Bullet Train': How Brian Tyree Henry mastered his cockney accent

Though David Leitch’s Bullet Train is a stylistic, heightened action thriller, for actor Brian Tyree Henry, who plays Lemon, there was a commitment to authenticity he wanted to honour.

The character is from the East End of London, and is the brother of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Tangerine. When speaking to Yahoo, alongside his on-screen sibling, Henry said he used his co-star as a guide when it came to perfecting the tricky cockney accent.

Bullet Train is in cinemas nationwide from 3 August.

Video transcript

STEFAN PAPE: So let's talk about the accents because I loved you two giving it-- the Cockney. Did you work with dialect coaches? How did you work to kind of perfect the sound of your--

BRIAN TYREE HENRY: I listened to him a lot. [LAUGHS] Like, I was like-- I was following his lead. But, yeah, there was a brilliant dialect coach for me named Jamison Bryant. She was really great.

AARON TYLER-JOHNSON: She was amazing.

BRIAN TYREE HENRY: And I trained for a while, so I knew dialects, but I really wanted to get this one right. Like, I wanted to make sure he felt authentic. I wanted to make sure he felt, like-- you know, I wanted viewers to be confused about if they knew if I was English or actually American. And I hope it came off that way. I didn't want to fight anybody in the UK in the street for them coming after my accent. So I tried to do the work, you know?

STEFAN PAPE: Was there any word did you find particularly fun to say in Cockney? Was there anything that you sort of stumbled on that took a while to get right?

BRIAN TYREE HENRY: Oh, man, what was the one that I had to do over and over again? I had to do this warm-up called Betty Botter bought some butter. And it was the removal of the t's for me. Like, Betty Botter bought some butter. And I was like, this is really fun, but what the fuck am I saying? But I had a lot of help, so it was good.

STEFAN PAPE: I loved the accent. Can you talk about getting your head around doing the accent? Were there any words you found particularly fun to say and that you stumbled?

JOEY KING: Yeah, there was a word that-- so one of the things I did to prepare for my accent-- well, me and my dialect coach, Jamison Bryant, who's amazing, we prepared three different accents, presented them to David, and then he chose the one that wound up in the movie.

And I think the one word that I really struggled with because how I kind of helped prepare myself was I read the entire script out loud, including stage direction and everything, to my fiancee as, like, an exercise for myself. And one word that I could not pronounce for the longest time was interior because in-- and I can't even say it. Fucking English is hard, you know?

But, like, interior. Like, they say interior train car, and then the scene happens. And so that-- but that's between every scene. Interior, exterior, this, that. So every time interior came up, I was like inter-- I don't know how to say this word.

STEFAN PAPE: At least that wasn't an actual line you had to say in it.

JOEY KING: Like-- no, but then I-- but then it became annoying for me. So then I was like, I need to learn how to say the fucking word. So I--

STEFAN PAPE: Can you do it now? Have you perfected it by now?

JOEY KING: I mean, I fucking hope so. Let me see if I can do it. No, I'm going to embarrass myself because there's cameras rolling. Interior.

STEFAN PAPE: That's brilliant.

JOEY KING: It's fine.

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