In October, I wrote “if you don’t already know Stephan James, you will soon.” He was weeks away from the release of Homecoming and If Beale Street Could Talk, his two breakout roles of 2018. A whole awards season later and Stephan James is definitely a name you know. Not to negate Stephan’s work at all, because if you knew of him before last year, you know he’s been hustling for a lot longer, but he has leveraged the profile of his latest projects to make sure his name was one people would know well past the Oscars.
It’s hard to think of another person who wasn’t a nominee – especially whose film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture – who’s been as present and reliably snackable on red carpets as Stephan. I just said this out loud to Duana and she saw my Steph and raised me a Henry Golding. She has a point but Henry was in Crazy Rich Asians, a certified blockbuster, and Stephan was in a little movie that depended on critical acclaim and word of mouth through awards. That’s not exactly an equal level of exposure and yet, Henry Golding and Stephan James are peers. You can put him in the same sentence as Michael Bae Jordan, or Liam Hemsworth or Taron Edgerton or any of the other young, attractive actors of his generation. Along with showing up on carpets and talk shows eager to do interviews and genuinely happy to be there, Stephan has used one of the career tactics usually reserved for young starlets: his fashion.
LOOK AT THIS RED VELVET CUPCAKE. Listen, the pride I feel for Stephan James is irrational but the overwhelming emotional I felt when I first saw him in this suit (AND SHOES) was not pride, it was something else I will not say because I interviewed Stephan recently and I would like to do it again at some point so hey, let’s not make it weird, OK? This suit is a showstopper. It’s a “please talk about it” suit. Aside from fashion, the way Stephan is getting people to talk is through some other work. He and his brother Shamier Anderson throw an annual party called the B.L.A.C.K Ball, which was held in LA last week for the first time (it’s usually in Toronto). Its aim is to bring together black creatives to network and embolden each other in the industry. Stephan and Shamier brought out stars like Tessa Thompson, Amandla Stenberg, Tiffany Haddish, and Jesse Williams.
So, not only is Stephan showing face for the audience to get to know him, he’s putting in time with his peers and pulling up others with him. He’s having a MOMENT. I’m so excited for him and I want to give him the same treatment that any other young, new heartthrob on the scene would get because he’s earned it.
You know who’s also earned it – maybe even more than Stephan? Brian Tyree Henry.
I’m still mad that If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, and that Stephan, Brian and Kiki Layne didn’t get the acting accolades I was sure they would when I was still wiping away tears every time I thought about Fonny, Daniel, and Tish weeks after I first saw Beale Street.
I’m also still mad Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse wasn’t nominated for Best Picture even though I’m elated it won Best Animated Feature. That movie is the most important animated movie of its generation – I’m sorry, ANY generation. This is the only correct take.
And I’m upset Widows wasn’t nominated in ANYTHING.
You know who was in all of the above movies? BRIAN TYREE HENRY, THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN SHOWBIZ. The devil works hard but Brian Tyree Henry works harder. In an alternate Spider-Verse, both Brian and Stephan would be dominating awards season together.