James Yoshimura is a Japanese American writer and producer, best known for his screenwriting work on the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street and the short-lived Fox series The Jury, for which he served as a co-creator. He also co-wrote Homicide: The Movie, a made-for-television film that came out in 2000, after the series ended. Yoshimura has received two Emmy Award nominations: one for Homicide: The Movie and one for the Homicide episode "Subway", which also won a Peabody Award for excellence in television broadcasting.
Yoshimura was born in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut, where he had a playwriting class with classmate and future comedian Lewis Black. Yoshimura began his career writing for theater. Among his theater works were the plays "Union Boys", and "Mercenaries". The latter play was about three American mercenaries who are placed on trial following a defeated coup of a leftist island government. Although The New York Times was critical of the play, which it said lacked adequate characterization, reviewer Frank Rich compliments "its author's willingness to reach, as well as his flickers of talent: Mr. Yoshimura can write theatrical scenes, spin dark jokes and ask big questions."
Yoshimura met Tom Fontana in 1988 at a mutual friend's housewarming party in Los Angeles. Fontana accused Yoshimura of being a "snobby theater type" who looks down on television people. The two became friends after the party, however, and Yoshimura credits Fontana with getting him work and teaching him how to write for television.
Yoshimura went on to work with Fontana on Homicide: Life on the Street, where Yoshimura served as a writer and later producer for the duration of the show's seven seasons. Many of the scripts Yoshimura wrote focused on one strong central story, rather than a large number of subplots. The first Homicide script he wrote was the first season episode "Son of a Gun". Among the other scripts he wrote was the sixth season episode "Subway", which featured a man becoming pinned between a subway car and train platform, leaving him only about an hour to live. Yoshimura was inspired to write it based on an episode of the HBO hidden-camera documentary show Taxicab Confessions, where a New York City detective discussed a similar real-life event. The episode won a 1993 Peabody Award for excellence in television broadcasting, and received two Emmy Award nominations during the 50th Primetime Emmy Awards season, including one for Yoshimura for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series.
David Simon, a writer and producer who worked on Homicide: Life on the Street, suggested Yoshimura as a possible writing partner when he was pitching the mini-series The Corner to HBO executives, but writer David Mills was chosen instead. Yoshimura co-wrote the script for Homicide: The Movie, the made-for-television film that came out after the series ended. Yoshimura and his fellow co-writers, Fontana and Eric Overmyer, conceived the story for the film in one weekend. Yoshimura and the co-writers received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or Movie, although the award ultimately went to Simon and Mills for The Corner.
- Bogosian, Theodore (1998-11-04). Anatomy of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (Documentary). Baltimore, Maryland: Public Broadcasting Service.
- Witchel, Alex (2006-03-13). "Shades of Black Humor". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- "Playwright conference will develop 15 plays". The New York Times (New York City, New York). 1985-07-03. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Rich, Frank (1982-07-08). "The stage: American "Mercenaries" in Caribbean". The New York Times (New York City, New York). Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Nussbaum, Emily (2004-05-24). "It's not HBO. It's TV. With his new show, The Jury, Tom Fontana is trying to sneak the values of Oz onto the network of The Swan. Perhaps there’s hope for television after all.". New York (magazine) (New York City, New York). Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Johnson, Clark (1998-11-04). Anatomy of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (Documentary). Baltimore, Maryland: Public Broadcasting Service.
- Mutrux, Gail (1998-11-04). Anatomy of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (Documentary). Baltimore, Maryland: Public Broadcasting Service.
- Kaltenbach, Chris (1997-08-31). "Homicide: Still on the Street; The ratings haven't been all that the TV honchos would like, but Baltimore's finest is hanging in there for a sixth season". The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland). p. 1E.
- Zurawik, David; Kaltenbach, Chris (1999-05-16). ""Homicide": The best of the best". The Baltimore Sun. p. 5F.
- Phillips, Barbara A. (1998-11-02). "Behind the Scenes Of a "Homicide"". The Wall Street Journal (New York City, New York). Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- Scott, Janny (2000-06-11). "Who Gets to Tell a Black Story?". The New York Times (New York City, New York). Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Weinraub, Bernard (2000-02-06). "Television/radio; A gritty portrayal of police life gets a kind of closure". The New York Times (New York City, New York). Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Reese, Lori (2000-09-10). "Trophy Hunting: "The West Wing" and "The Sopranos" score big, while Sarah Michelle Gellar is ignored again". Entertainment Weekly (Los Angeles, California). Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Johnson, Allan (2000-09-11). "Political drama wins 5; "Will" gets 3; Tony (Soprano) wins an Emmy". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois). p. 1.
- Stanley, Alessandra (2004-06-08). "TELEVISION REVIEW; They Meet Secretly, Bicker and Try to Return a Verdict". The New York Times (New York City, New York). Retrieved 2009-07-08.