Stephan James

Stephan James was a Candian actor who made a name for himself playing some of the most important African Americans in history, before landing a breakout role in an Oscar winning director's adaptation of a James Baldwin novel. Born on December 16, 1993 in Toronto, Ontario, CA, to a family of Jamaican immigrants, James was raised in the Scarborough neighborhood of Toronto. Like many young Canadian thespians, James got his start in the business via "Degrassi: The Next Generation" (CTV, 2001-2015). James played Julian Williams on the show from 2010 until 2012. Once the series ended, James made his film debut, playing a Jamaican immigrant in the indie drama "Home Again" (2012). The film was a surprise hit in Canada, and earned James a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Performance by and Actor in a Supporting Role. His next big role came when he played civil rights activist John Lewis in Ava DuVernay's Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic "Selma" (2014). After taking on roles in "Lost After Dark" (2015) and "Across the Line" (2015), James stepped into the role of Olympic champion Jesse Owens in "Race" (2016), after original star John Boyega was forced to drop out. The film was a moderate success, and proved to be the first time James earned palpable attention outside of his home country. He was once again nominated for a Canadian Screen Award, this time for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, and this time he took home the prize. Hot off of this success, James caught the eye of writer/director Barry Jenkins, who was himself hot off of the success of his Oscar winning sophomore feature "Moonlight" (2016). Jenkins decided to cast James as the co-lead, alongside KiKi Layne, of his next film, "If Beale Street Could Talk" (2018). Based on a 1974 novel by James Baldwin, James played Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt, a short order cook in Harlem whose love affair with Layne's Clementine "Tish" Rivers is threatened when Fonny is jailed for a rape that he did not commit, and Tish is forced to prove his innocence. The film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2018, earning rapturous reviews and quickly becoming an Oscar contender. That same year, James also co-starred with Julia Roberts on the sci-fi drama series "Homecoming" (Amazon, 2018-).