Canadian-born Stephan James first got his start in television where he starred for two seasons in the long-running Canadian teen series Degrassi: The Next Generation. His first breakthrough came when he landed alongside Tatyana Ali in the Canadian film Home Again in 2012, when he played a Jamaican deportee.
In 2013, he was cast as civil rights activist John Lewis in Ava Duvernay’s Martin Luther King, Jr. hit film Selma which, as you may know, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. In 2015, James guest starred in the CBC television mini-series The Book of Negroes, based on the award-winning novel by Lawrence Hill. As most recent as 2016, James starred in the lead role of track and field sprinter Jesse Owens in the biopic Race. And not one to sit idle, this year, James plays DOJ prosecutor, Preston Terry in the critically acclaimed FOX series, Shots Fired.
Written By: Christian Burkholder
Photographer: Elton Anderson
Grooming: Tasha Brown for Exclusive Artists using Jack Black
Stylist: Apuje Kalu
Styling Assistant: Brandon Gray
Having been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actor and one of TIFF’s rising stars at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival along with CBC naming James as one of their Six black Canadian culture-makers; James is certainly one to watch.
We had a chat with Stephan who gave us some great insights into who he is as an actor and all around human being.
As every Cover star that we’ve featured in Ferrvor Magazine; can you describe what the word Gentleman means to you?
A gentlemen is a man who carries himself with class, puts others before himself, and knows the true value of a woman.
When did you first learn you wanted to be an actor?
Drama has always been one of my favorite subjects in school. However, I was always kind of reserved, so I did not know if I could perform for a living. When I was 15, I got to high school and I found love in theatre, which helped me get over some of my reservations and pursue a career in film and tv.
Left: Jacket: Beautiful Fül Shirt: James Pearse Jeans: G-Star Shoes: Nike | Right: Coat: YSL Shirt: Rag & Bone Pants: Nike Watch: Apple
Did you find it difficult breaking through as an actor in Canada, or easier considering Canada has fantastic arts programs?
There is a huge film industry in Canada. And there were plenty of opportunities for me to work on great projects and develop my craft. I am grateful that I was able to start my career in Canada and then make a transition to the US. I have always seen that as an advantage.
Fashion goes hand in hand with being a well-dressed man, what is your definition of dressing well?
I think fashion is so subjective. It is not about what you wear, it is more about how you wear it. Confidence and swagger is 90% of it.
Since we are on Fashion topic, What’s your go-to style these days?
I love wearing all black, you should see my closet.
Hoodie + Pants + Shoes: Nike Shirt: Vince Necklace: Stephan’s Own
Is there an experience you could share with us on working with our Favorite stylist, Apuje, and his team?
One thing about working with Apuje is he is not afraid to push the envelope with fashion. He seems more inspired by the model rather than the clothing itself, which may give him an edge as a stylist. Also, him and his team are great at pumping you up for a shoot no doubt!
What was it like growing up in Toronto compared to the U.S?
Toronto is an incredible city. Especially right now. The music, the culture, and the pure energy in the city at this moment is truly something special. I often say it reminds me of a smaller, cleaner version of New York. Glad to be from such a gem.
Any recipe for success you can share with our readers and us?
People’s idea of success is often different. I attribute most of my success to being observant, watching and listening to people who have had success in their own right. And never being afraid to be a student and trust the process, whatever that may be.
Left: Coat: Sandro Shirt: Rag & Bone Pants+ Shoes: Nike | Right: Shirt: J. Crew Pants: G-Star Watch: Nixon
In this crazy world and times that we’re living in, what does the word “Freedom” mean to you?
Freedom is more of a state. To be truly free to me, means to be able to peaceably express yourself and your ideals in whatever way satisfies you. Not everyone lives in such a state.
Is there anything you have learned from the show, “Shots Fired” ?
“Shots Fired” has opened up my perspectives in a way I could not have imagined going into it. Something about working on material that is so timely and reflective of the very sensitive times we live in challenges you to think about things you may not have before and have discussions you have never had before. You grow from telling these stories.
Coat: Zara Shirt: Diesel Watch: Apple Pants: Nike
Can you share an inspiring experience/s with our readers that keep you motivated?
I remember getting invited to the White House and almost thinking the invite was a joke. Meeting President Obama and his family in the White House was a moment when you say, “they let a kid from Toronto, Canada into the White House,” there is a reason why I am here. If my art has taken me this far, there is no telling where else I could take it.
Do you have a mentor you call on from time to time?
I am fortunate to have a few. Again, I am never afraid to be the quietest in the room. Usually you are learning the most.
What’s next in the Stephan James’ Horizon?
Starring in Shintaro Shimosawas’ Civil War Drama “Rise To Freedom” shooting this summer.