James in 1986
25 July 1942 |
Trinidad, West Indies
|Notable work||Tony Carpenter in EastEnders (1985-1987)|
Oscar James (born 25 July 1942 in Trinidad, West Indies) is a Trinidadian actor, who is based in the United Kingdom. He has had a long and varied career, but is best known for appearing on British television, in particular the BBC soap opera EastEnders, where he played original character, Tony Carpenter, for over two years. James resides in North London.
James came from a poor upbringing in Trinidad to England in the 1950s. He initially worked as a taxi driver, a dish-washer and also a gymnast, but he always had aspirations to be an entertainer and followed his dream by becoming an actor.
In 1972 he co-founded with fellow actor Alton Kumalo the first black British theatre company, Temba (the name derived from the Zulu word for hope), initially to produce new black writing from Britain and South Africa. Temba staged the first British production of Athol Fugard's Sizwe Bansi is Dead.
James had early roles in television programmes such as Softly, Softly (1966); Love Thy Neighbour (1975); Quiller (1975); Till Death Us Do Part (1975);Gangsters (1976); Angels (1976); The Professionals; Out (1978); Minder (1979); Shoestring (1980) and The Gentle Touch (1984).
He was the first black actor to appear on the ITV soap opera Emmerdale Farm in 1972, teaching Seth Armstrong to read. However, he is best known for his role as Tony Carpenter in the BBC television soap opera EastEnders. James was one of the original cast members, appearing in the series from its debut in 1985 until 1987.
Other TV credits include: Minder in the Series 1 episode "Come in T-64, Your Time Is Ticking Away" (1979), Casualty (1996), Lovejoy (1994), London's Burning (2002), Doctors (2002; 2005), The Bill (2006), Crocodile Shoes II (2006), The Line of Beauty (2006), Holby City (2006), Dream Team (2002), Afterlife (2005) and the television drama Angel Cake (2006). He also appeared in the 2005 Tim Burton adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where he played a shopkeeper.
In 2004 James played Herbert in Oxford Road: the Story, a radio play in which he worked alongside Doña Croll, an actress with whom he had previously worked on Kwame Kwei-Armah's play Elmina's Kitchen at the National Theatre. Elmina's Kitchen was adapted into a BBC Four televised film in 2005, in which James also starred.
- Tony Bonnici (12 February 2005). "Square Are They Now?". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- "Oscar James interview", BBC; accessed on 22 April 2007.
- "Temba Theatre Company", National Theatre, Black Plays Archive.
- "Black & Asian Performance in Britain 1970 onwards – Temba Theatre Company", Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Richard Anthony Baker, "Alton Kumalo" (obituary), The Stage, 26 November 2013.
- Oscar James at the Internet Movie Database
- "Oscar James and Mustapha Matura in conversation", National Theatre, July 2013.