If you don’t already know Stephan James, you will soon. He’s at the point in his career I like to call the Oprah Burn. You know the Oprah quote. The one she says Quincy Jones said first but no one remembers that.
“Your future is so bright it burns my eyes.”
Stephan James is staring down a blindingly bright future. In the next year, he’s going to burn all of our retinas. Stephan isn’t new to this game. He’s been putting in work for this moment. He stole every scene he was in in Selma. He made Race –a mediocre film at best—watchable. If you know him from his LA Complex days, you know that he’s spent years building towards this year.
First, he’s got Homecoming, the Amazon series with Julia Roberts which drops on November 2nd. Then, in the same month, you’ll see him in Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. Revisit Sarah’s TIFF review of the film here. I’ll come back to Stephan in Beale Street. If those two huge roles weren’t enough, he just landed another one. Stephan will join Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller and Tim Riggins in the action thriller 17 Bridges. I’m going to watch the sh-t out of that movie. I’m going to watch every single thing Stephan James is in for his foreseeable bright future because I believe in his talent that much. My belief is rooted firmly in what he does on screen in If Beale Street Could Talk.
Stephan plays Fonny opposite Kiki Layne’s Tish. Kiki Layne is another young star poised for an Oprah Burn moment. Together, Stephan and Kiki are devastating. That word doesn’t do them justice. The only person who could rightly put into words how electric and soul-redefining these actors in this film are is probably James Baldwin, the man who wrote the words that are the foundation of If Beale Street Could Talk. Baldwin gave us Fonny on the page and Stephan James has brought Fonny to life in a way I can only imagine would fulfill Baldwin’s wildest dreams. Stephan’s performance is one of those performances we’ll look back on in decades and marvel at its brilliance. It’s a Denzel in Glory kind of performance.
Stephan James is from Toronto. I’ve produced him before and Lainey has interviewed him. There was a while there when he was often in the building where we work. He’s always been kind and generous. He’s a hometown kid which might be why I feel proud of him like he’s a family member and not just someone whose path I’ve crossed a few times. I cried reading this account of the Harlem premiere of Beale Street for a few reasons, but one of them was how Stephan James described working with Kiki Layne. I can’t wait for you to meet Fonny and Tish and fall in love with their love – their all-encompassing, beautifully black love.
It’s a great feeling when good things happen for the good ones. Steph (I like to pretend we’re close enough for me to call him this) is one of the good ones. Get to know his work. Get to know his name. I think we’ll be mentioning it a lot come award season.