Will America learn to understand Cheryl Cole?
Singer sent to voice coach after landing role on US 'X Factor'
When Simon Cowell touted Cheryl Cole as a judge on the American version of X Factor he praised her "great ability to communicate". Now the star must learn to curb her Geordie tongue after her role on the judging panel was finally confirmed.
Cole, 27, has been given a chance to break America after impressing executives at the Fox network with her "charm and charisma". But the Newcastle singer has been given a "hit list" of words to avoid and sent to a leading Hollywood voice coach, amid fears that her North-east accent may prove incomprehensible to viewers when the show launches in the US in the autumn.
US broadcasting rules require entertainment programmes to deliver "reliable information" and insiders say the network fears lawsuits if viewers can't make sense of Cole. Viewers and losing contestants could claim that they were misled because they could not understand what Cole had said.
Although Piers Morgan and Cat Deeley have successfully crossed over to American television, the US audience is not trusted to comprehend a strong regional brogue. Cole's fellow Geordies Ant and Dec employed an elocution teacher during their shortlived attempt to present a hit US television game show, Wanna Bet? in 2008.
A Susan Boyle interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009 was accompanied by subtitles, a fate that also befell Mike Leigh's Oscar-nominated film Secrets And Lies – set among working-class Londoners – and Trainspotting, Danny Boyle's celebrated adaptation of Irving Welsh's novel about Edinburgh heroin addicts.
Cole has already been told to avoid Geordie endearments such as "babe" and "pet" which have different meanings for US viewers. During auditions for the role, she was given an American lexicon, advising her to use words like "butt" instead of "bum" and "pants" for "trousers".
Cole is believed to have visited Bob Corff, a Hollywood voice specialist, who worked on the film Kick-Ass and helped Sharon Osborne cultivate a "posh" voice for her US television appearances. A relative unknown for such a high-profile US role, Cole's notoriety from a 2003 conviction for assaulting a black woman nightclub toilet attendant may follow her to Los Angeles.
Cecile Frot-Coutaz, US X Factor's executive producer, said: "Her empathy and passion for identifying and nurturing undiscovered talent has made her a huge hit with British audiences, and I have no doubt America will fall in love with her beauty, her accent and her incredible chemistry with Simon Cowell."
Cole, who signed a £500,000 deal, will appear alongside Cowell, record producer Antonio LA Reid and another, unannounced judge. Cowell, whose US commitments mean he won't be a judge on the next UK series, said: "I'm thrilled for Cheryl. She is massively excited about this show, and has been fantastic to work with. She is also a complete brat. Most importantly, this girl can spot talent."
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