Actor Stephan James is taking on Tinseltown with a double wham-bam grand slam.
Stephan James has demonstrated a shrewd strategy when it comes to conquering 21st-century Hollywood: Showcase your formidable acting talents under the direction of an Oscar-winning filmmaker and hold your own opposite one of the word’s biggest movie stars in a high-profile streaming series.
This season, the 24-year-old actor headlines playing the star-crossed, unfairly incarcerated Fonny in Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, based on author James Baldwin’s novel about racial injustice. “Baldwin wrote these words in 1973, but we are still dealing with the same issues today: mass incarceration and false imprisonment of minorities,” says James. “I loved the range of emotions this young man goes through. We see him at his most joyous moments, filled with an abundance of love… and then we see the pain, the tragedy that this character had to experience.”
James also appears in Amazon’s hotly anticipated Homecoming, a byzantine mystery-box thriller from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail in which he plays a discharged young soldier under the treatment of a therapist portrayed by Julia Roberts. Sharing scenes opposite an enduring superstar like Roberts confirmed James’ intuited take about a top-tier acting career. “You must have incredible diligence and dedication when you’re acting at this level,” says the actor. “But you also have to have fun with it... to maintain the love and the passion.”
A native of Toronto, James has managed to find a sweet spot splitting his time between his hometown and Hollywood as his star ascends. “It’s definitely a plus to duck out to LA in November when it starts to get cold,” he says with a laugh. “I’m still a Canadian boy at heart... but I like to say I have two homes now.”