Stephan James (actor)

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Stephan James
James in 2017.
Born (1993-12-16) December 16, 1993 (age 29)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Years active2010–present

Stephan James (born December 16, 1993) is a Canadian actor. After starring in a string of television series as a teenager, he rose to prominence upon winning a Canadian Screen Award for Best Actor for his role as track and field sprinter Jesse Owens in the 2016 film Race.[1]

In 2018, he starred in Barry Jenkins' acclaimed drama film If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name. Also that year, he portrayed Walter Cruz in the Amazon series Homecoming, for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination.[2]

Early life[edit]

James was born in Scarborough, a borough of Ontario that later became part of the City of Toronto. He graduated from Jarvis Collegiate Institute in 2011. The middle child of three boys, he is the younger brother of actor Shamier Anderson, who also plays Jesse Owens’ track rival Eulace Peacock in Race. James credits his brother Shamier as the person who inspired him to get into acting.[3] His family is Jamaican.[4]


Early work[edit]

James got his start in television with a recurring role for two seasons on the long-running Canadian teen series Degrassi. After leaving Degrassi, James played various supporting roles on television, including in How To Be Indie, Clue, and My Babysitter's a Vampire in 2011, and The Listener and The LA Complex in 2012. Also in 2011, he played a supporting role in the ABC Family made-for-TV movie 12 Dates of Christmas.[5]

Later career[edit]

James landed his first major feature film role playing opposite Tatyana Ali and Fefe Dobson in the Canadian film Home Again (2012), in which he played a Jamaican deportee.[6] Although the film received mixed reviews,[7][8][9] The Globe and Mail gave James' performance a positive review, calling it "heartbreaking."[8] James garnered a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 1st Canadian Screen Awards for his performance,[10] though he ultimately lost to Serge Kanyinda.[11]

In 2013, James was cast as civil rights activist John Lewis in Ava Duvernay's Martin Luther King Jr. film Selma (2014), which went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.[12] When asked about the proposed "snubs" the film received from the Academy,[13][14][15] James said:

To me, I've always seen this film as a victory really, even before I saw the finished version. No award can amount to the way I feel about what we've done with this film. We've done something so relevant to our youth.[16]

In 2015, James guest-starred in the CBC television mini-series The Book of Negroes, based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Lawrence Hill.[17] At the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, James was named one of the industry's foremost "Rising Stars".[18][19][20][21] In celebration of Black History Month, James was named by CBC as one of their '6 Black Canadian Culture-Makers,' citing Oprah Winfrey as one of his biggest influences.[22]

In 2016, James starred in the lead role of African-American track and field sprinter Jesse Owens in the biopic Race (2016) opposite Jason Sudeikis, replacing Star Wars star John Boyega.[23][24][25] For his role in Race, James won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Actor.[1]

In 2017, James played DOJ prosecutor Preston Terry in the FOX limited series, Shots Fired.[26] In 2018, he starred in Barry Jenkins' film adaptation of the James Baldwin novel If Beale Street Could Talk, which was nominated for several Academy Awards.[27][28] Also that year, he portrayed Walter Cruz, opposite Julia Roberts, Bobby Cannavale, and Shea Whigham, in the Amazon series Homecoming. James received a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance in Homecoming. More recently, he and Shamier Anderson had signed a deal with Boat Rocker.[29] In February 2022, it was reported that James is attached to star and co-produce a limited series about the life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.[30]

Nonprofit work[edit]

James and his brother, fellow actor Shamier Anderson, founded a non-profit called B.L.A.C.K. Canada (Building a Legacy in Acting, Cinema + Knowledge) in 2016. In December 2020, they announced an extension of the organization called The Black Academy, which showcases Black talent across Canada in the arts, culture, entertainment and sports. James explained, "We're not short of talent but we are short of opportunities. And so we can only hope that The Black Academy will continue to elevate and inspire the Anglophone and Francophone communities to come together and have one place in which they can build on what they've already started and be celebrated and honored for it, rightfully so." The organization's vision includes building a coalition of supporters who can provide funding, mentorship, programming, and awards to support Black excellence in Canada.[31]



Year Title Role Notes
2012 Home Again Everton St. Clair Nominated—Canadian Screen Award for Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role[32]
2014 Perfect Sisters Donny
The Dependables
When the Game Stands Tall Terrance G. "T.K." Kelly
Selma John Lewis Nominated—Black Reel Award for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male[33]
2015 Lost After Dark Wesley
Across the Line Mattie Slaughter
2016 Race Jesse Owens Canadian Screen Award for Best Actor[34]
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture[35]
2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt
2019 21 Bridges Michael Trujillo
2021 National Champions LeMarcus James
2022 Delia's Gone Louis
TBA Babes
The Piano Lesson Filming


Year Title Role Notes
2010 My Babysitter's a Vampire Jock Television film
2010–11 How to Be Indie Wilfred 3 episodes
2010–12 Degrassi: The Next Generation Julian Williams 8 episodes
2011 My Babysitter's a Vampire Jock #1 Episode: "Smells Like Trouble"
Clue Dmitri 5 episodes
12 Dates of Christmas Michael Television film
2012 The Listener Ibrahim Ayim Episode: "The Taking"
The L.A. Complex Infinite Jest 5 episodes
2013 Cracked Ben Omari Episode: "Faces"
2014 The Gabby Douglas Story John 16-18 Years Television film
Apple Mortgage Cake William Logan Television film
2015 Unveiled Daniel Shepard Television film
The Book of Negroes Cummings Shakspear Episode #1.5
2017 Shots Fired Preston Terry 10 episodes
2018–2020 Homecoming Walter Cruz 16 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama
2020 #FreeRayshawn Rayshawn Morris 12 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series
2022 Surface Baden Main role
2023 Beacon 23 Halan Kai Nelson Main role

Awards and nominations[edit]

Association Year Work Category Result Ref.
Black Film Critics Circle Awards 2014 Selma Best Ensemble Won
Black Reel Awards 2015 Selma Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male Nominated [36]
2017 Shots Fired Outstanding Actor, TV Movie/Limited Series Nominated [37]
2019 If Beale Street Could Talk Outstanding Actor Nominated [38]
Canadian Screen Awards 2013 Home Again Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Nominated [39]
2017 Race Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Won [40]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards 2015 Selma Best Ensemble Nominated [41]
Golden Globe Awards 2019 Homecoming Best Performance in a Television Series – Drama Nominated [42]
Georgia Film Critics Association 2014 Selma Best Ensemble Nominated [43]
2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Nominated
NAACP Image Awards 2017 Race Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture Nominated [44]
2019 If Beale Street Could Talk Nominated [45]
2021 #FreeRayshawn Outstanding Performance in a Short-Form Series Nominated [46]
Primetime Emmy Awards 2020 #FreeRayshawn Best Television Actor – Drama Series Nominated [47]
San Diego Film Critics Society 2014 Selma Best Acting Ensemble Nominated [48]
Seattle Film Critics Society 2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Best Ensemble Cast Nominated [49]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association 2015 Selma Best Acting Ensemble Nominated [50]
2018 If Beale Street Could Talk Nominated [51]
Women Film Critics Circle 2018 If Beale Street Could Talk (with KiKi Layne) Best Screen Couple Won [51]


  1. ^ a b "Tatiana Maslany and 'Orphan Black' win big at Canadian Screen Awards". Toronto Star. 12 March 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  2. ^ Hipes, Patrick (2018-12-06). "Golden Globes Nominations: 'Vice', 'Versace' Lead Wide-Ranging Field – Complete List". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
  3. ^ "Race actor Stephan James on the fast track to fame". The Toronto Star. 20 February 2016. Retrieved 2023-11-22.
  4. ^ "Q&A with 'Race' Star Stephan James - Essence". Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Stephan James". IMDb. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  6. ^ "TIFF Capsule Review: 'Home Again'". Indiewire. 8 September 2012. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  7. ^ DeMara, Bruce (2013-03-22). "Home Again, by writer/director Sudz Sutherland, portrays the lives of three deportees to Jamaica, a place they haven't seen since childhood". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  8. ^ a b Taylor, Kate (22 March 2013). "Home Again: A very Canadian take on life and deportation". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  9. ^ "Home Again". 2013-11-12. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
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  12. ^ Child, Ben (30 January 2015). "David Oyelowo: Selma's Oscars snub 'bothers me'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  13. ^ "Oscar voter defends 'Selma' snubs in racially-charged tirade". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  14. ^ Squire, Aurin (2015-02-22). "Why 'Selma' Didn't Win Best Picture". New Republic. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  15. ^ "Why Ava DuVernay's 'Selma' Oscar Snub Matters". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  16. ^ Wheeler, Brad (16 January 2015). "Actor Stephan James goes big on historical dramas". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  17. ^ "5 Questions with Stephan James of Selma". Scene Creek. 6 May 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  18. ^ "Meet the four up-and-coming Canadian actors in TIFF's Rising Stars program". The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2015.
  19. ^ Barnard, Linda (2015-09-03). "From Tatiana Maslany to Sarah Gadon, a look at five graduates of TIFF's Rising Stars program". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
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  21. ^ "A Chat with TIFF Rising Star Stephan James - Toronto Guardian". Toronto Guardian. 8 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  22. ^ "CBC News - Black History Month: 6 black Canadian culture-makers". Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  23. ^ Sneider, Jeff (May 28, 2014). "'Star Wars' Hero John Boyega to Be Replaced by 'Selma' Actor in Jesse Owens Biopic". Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  24. ^ "Race Trailer: Jesse Owens Comes to Life in New Biopic". Slashfilm. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  25. ^ "Stephan James To Replace Star Wars' John Boyega In Race". We Got This Covered. 29 May 2014. Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  26. ^ "Canadian Stephan James stars in Shots Fired". Toronto Star. 21 March 2017. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  27. ^ Kroll, Justin (29 August 2017). "Barry Jenkins' New Film Casts 'Shots Fired' Star Stephan James (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  28. ^ Lee, Ashley (29 August 2017). "Barry Jenkins' James Baldwin Adaptation Casts 'Shots Fired' Star". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  29. ^ Petski, Denise (2021-10-05). "Shamier Anderson & Stephan James Ink First-Look Deal With Boat Rocker Studios". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-10-06.
  30. ^ White, Peter (February 24, 2022). "Stephan James Set To Star As Jean-Michel Basquiat In Limited Series In The Works With Boat Rocker Studios". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-02-25.
  31. ^ Dowling, Amber (2020-12-03). "Shamier Anderson, Stephan James Launch The Black Academy, Celebrate Black Excellence in Canada". Variety. Retrieved 2021-05-04.
  32. ^ "Introducing the Canadian Screen Awards, and their 2013 nominees -". Retrieved 2015-12-31.
  33. ^ says, Gina (17 December 2014). "15th Annual Black Reel Awards Nominate a Spate of Familiar Faces". The Black Reel Awards. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  34. ^ "Juste la fin du monde remporte six prix aux Écrans canadiens". La Presse. 12 March 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  35. ^ "Beyoncé Leads the Pack of 2017 NAACP Image Awards Nominees". Entertainment Weekly. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  36. ^ "Black Reel Awards: Selma Ties the Record". Archived from the original on 2015-02-21. Retrieved 2015-02-20.
  37. ^ "17th Annual Black Reel Awards Nominations". The Black Reel Awards. 2016-12-14. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  38. ^ "The 3rd Annual Black Reel Awards for Television (BRATs)". BlogTalkRadio. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  39. ^ "War Witch leads Canadian Screen Award nominees". CBC News. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  40. ^ "Juste la fin du monde remporte six prix aux Écrans canadiens". Le Soleil (in French). 2017-03-12. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  41. ^ "Critics Choice Awards Winners". Variety. January 15, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  42. ^ Barnes, Brooks (January 6, 2018). "Golden Globes 2019: 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'Green Book' Share Spotlight". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 6, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2018.
  43. ^ "Georgia Film Critics Association". Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  44. ^ "Beyoncé Leads the Pack of 2017 NAACP Image Awards Nominees". Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  45. ^ "'Straight Outta Compton,' 'Empire,' Michael B. Jordan Top NAACP Image Awards". Variety. 2016-02-06. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  46. ^ Bosselman, Haley (2021-03-28). "NAACP Image Awards 2021: The Complete Televised Winners List". Variety. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  47. ^ "Game of Thrones takes best drama as Fleabag wins big at Emmys – as it happened". The Guardian. September 23, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  48. ^ "2014 San Diego Film Critics Award Nominations". San Diego Film Critics Society. December 11, 2014. Archived from the original on March 18, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  49. ^ "2018 Seattle Film Awards Archives". Seattle Film Critics Society. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  50. ^ "D.C. Wants to Have a Talk About the Birds and the Boys 'Boyhood' and 'Birdman' Dominate This Year's Awards" (PDF). Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. December 8, 2014. p. 3. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  51. ^ a b "2018 WAFCA Award Winners - The Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA)". Retrieved 2021-03-31.

External links[edit]