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Golden Globes nominee Stephan James on acting with Julia Roberts in 'Homecoming': 'I don't think you ever get over that'

Los Angeles Times — By Yvonne Villarreal Los Angeles Times

Dec. 06-- Stephan James is having a bit of a year. At just 24, he starred in a pair of Golden Globes nominees in Barry Jenkins' follow-up to "Moonlight," "If Beale Street Could Talk," and Sam Esmail's adaptation of the hit podcast "Homecoming." James also earned a nomination for his work on that series. The Canadian-born actor talks about working with Julia Roberts and whether he needs to readjust his goals now that he's surely met a few of them so early in his career.

Q: How did you get the news?

A: My manager and publicist woke me up a little after 5 a.m., and they were screaming at me, and I was trying to make out what they were saying. I finally was able to put two and two together. It's incredibly exciting. I have not been able to go back to sleep; that's been tough.

Q: What was the collaboration like with Sam Esmail and Julia Roberts?

A: I loved it. We really formed a great team. I knew that Julia and I had to really spend a lot of time together. I was just grateful to how she handled the whole situation. She's obviously an incredible actress, but she's also an incredible person. I couldn't have imagined sharing those moments with anybody else.

Q: Was it hard to focus on bringing it when you're across from Julia Roberts? What's your favorite movie of hers?

A: I don't think you ever really get over that. You kind of just go with it. She's been such a joy to be able to work with and to have as a friend.

My favorite movie is "Erin Brockovich," for sure.

Q: You and Julia actually improvised a lot together, right?

A: Yeah, we would improvise quite a bit. We already had so much dialogue in the show. Sam often would just encourage us to play around and feed off each other's energy. It was a lot of fun. She was the perfect actress for that.

Q: Are you better at caring for fish than her character?

A: I think I'm a little bit better! I grew up with fish, so I better be. I have a special place in my heart for them.

Q: How did hearing the podcast and being introduced to this world through only voices influence your approach?

A: I think that they were two different things. The podcast is just such an amazing dystopian universe. It really engages you in a way that's special. You can only imagine, visually, where you could take it. For me, Sam Esmail exceeded my expectations. Really, it's an incredible thing for me to be a part of. I think the podcast and TV show are two different things but they complement each other very well.

Q: Let's switch to 'If Beale Street Could Talk.' What was it like taking a story from James Baldwin and translating it for the screen with Barry [Jenkins]?

A: That was everything. Immediately that's what drew me to the project. James Baldwin and Barry Jenkins-knowing what that could look like, what that could feel like. It's the first time Baldwin had been adapted in the English-language feature film. We just knew we had a special opportunity to bring his words to light in a way that they've never been able to be. To me, it's meant the world to be a part of this whole journey.

Q: Tell me about your Beale Street.

A: My Beale Street was Bay Mills Boulevard-the boulevard I grew up on. It's a place where we had a lot of dreams, and we had a lot of love and family. Beale Street's about where you find love and where you find people to lean on. And so that was it for me.

Q: Does it give you a sense of confidence to be in a TV show and a movie that people are talking about? Do you feel like you need to change your dreams because they're materializing?

A: I've always dreamed pretty big. I don't think anything is going to change as far as that goes. Incredibly exciting time to have the opportunity to do things I care about, to do things I am excited about. I'm really just having fun.


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