Inside the Olympic Hero Who Brought Tolerance to the World Stage
About the actor
Recently named a Rising Star at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, Stephan James has had the honor of portraying several real-life figures in African-American history.
Prior to starring as Olympics hero Jesse Owens in Race, he was part of the cast of Ava DuVernay’s Selma, one of the most acclaimed films of recent years. In the drama illuminating the progress of Martin Luther King Jr.’s protest marches in Selma, Alabama, Mr. James was cast as John Lewis, the son of sharecroppers and a student activist with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee; Mr. Lewis later became a U.S. Congressman. Mr. James received a Black Reel Award nomination for Breakthrough Performance, and shared with his fellow actors the Black Film Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble.
He had previously played T.K. Kelly, the No. 1 high school running back in the U.S., in the inspirational fact-based sports tale When the Game Stands Tall. Directed by Thomas Carter, the film told the story of the De La Salle High School Spartans football team and their record-shattering journey from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak.
In The Book of Negroes, adapted from Lawrence Hill’s best-selling novel, Mr. James played Cummings Shakspear. Clement Virgo directed the miniseries account of Aminata Diallo’s journey through the slave trade and the American Revolution, and ultimately to her freedom in England.
The native Canadian was recently seen starring in Undone, directed by Director X. Based upon historical events, the feature film explores the deep-rooted racial tensions within Nova Scotia communities.
Mr. James’ other independent films include Stanley Brooks’ Perfect Sisters, alongside Georgie Henley and Abigail Breslin; and David Sutherland’s Home Again, in which he played a lead role alongside Tatyana Ali and Lyriq Bent, for which he earned a Canadian Screen Award nomination (Canada’s Oscars equivalent)
He also performs his own rap music. His sports activities include basketball, football, soccer, kickboxing, and track and field.