‘Homecoming’ Star Stephan James on His ‘Casual’ Chemistry Read With Julia Roberts

Stephan James, who appeared in “Selma” and “Race,” admits he’s been a “little bit busy” balancing Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” with a starring role in Amazon’s podcast-to-TV adaptation “Homecoming,” opposite Julia Roberts.

How did you get cast? 

I got a script I thought was pretty phenomenal. So I listened to the “Homecoming” podcast, which is the first podcast I had ever listened to. I didn’t know what a podcast even was. But it was incredible! I put my audition on tape for Sam Esmail, the director, and he loved it — and the next thing you know, I was in a chemistry read with Julia Roberts.

How did that chemistry read go? 

Everyone asked me if I was nervous. I don’t even know if I really took in what I was getting myself into. You get so caught up in memorizing your lines, you forget who you have to read opposite. And so I didn’t realize that I was reading opposite Julia Roberts until I got there and she was just in my face. It was really casual, honestly. There’s a bunch of producers sitting in the back, a bunch of lights, and you feel like it’s a high-pressure situation. But she was very, very nice. We had a little chat before we did the scene.

How did you want to make your Walter Cruz on-screen different from the podcast?

I saw this as a real actor’s piece; there are a lot of monologues, and my character has to go through a lot of long sessions with Julia’s character, Heidi. The podcast had Walter as an innocent, borderline-ignorant sort of a guy, and the scripts allowed me to add colors and layers to him that I hadn’t felt in the podcast — where he came from, his relationship with his mother, the type of pressure he had in joining the military and what that meant for his whole family. Making him more than just a voice, if you will.

Why do you think the show is relevant? 

When is not a good time to speak up for our vets and support them in any way that we can? I think it gets people thinking about the way we treat our vets when they come back from such traumatic experiences.

What You Didn’t Know About Stephan James

Age: 24 Hometown: Toronto On his nightstand: Iyanla Vanzant’s “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up” On his DVR: Season 2 of “Fargo” and “Ozark” Secret talent: Painting (“I’m obsessed with Jean-Michel Basquiat. That’s my whole vibe”)

More TV

  • American Son review

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases 'American Son' Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix released the trailer for “American Son” starring Kerry Washington and first looks at Dolly Parton’s new anthology series, “Heartstrings.” FIRST LOOKS Netflix has released the trailer for “American Son,” which premieres Nov. 1 on the streaming service. Directed by Tony award-winner Kenny Leon, the film is based on the [...]

  • BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to

    BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to Be Produced by Management Firm's New Shingle, ModestTV

    The BBC has confirmed its Little Mix talent show, which the pop band’s management firm, Modest!, will produce through a new banner, ModestTV. “Little Mix The Search” will be exec produced by Andrea Hamilton, who has partnered with the management outfit to launch the new operation. Her entertainment show credits include “The Voice” and “Strictly [...]

  • Monica Beletsky Apple TV Plus

    Apple Sets Overall Deal With Monica Beletsky

    Monica Beletsky is the latest of a small group of content creators to set an overall deal with Apple and their streaming platform, Apple TV Plus. Under the multi-year deal, Beletsky will develop and produce television series exclusively for the streamer. This is the first overall of Beletsky’s career. Her previous credits include “Fargo,” “Friday [...]

  • Saladin Patterson

    Saladin Patterson Inks Overall Deal at 20th Century Fox Television

    Saladin Patterson has signed an overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. Under the multi-year deal, Patterson will develop, write and produce comedy series for network, cable and streaming platforms. He was previously under a development deal at the studio earlier in his career. Patterson is currently an executive producer on the upcoming FX series [...]

  • Lenny Abrahamson and 'The Favourite' Producer

    'Room' Director Lenny Abrahamson and 'The Favourite' Producer Ed Guiney Present Their BBC-Hulu Series 'Normal People' (EXCLUSIVE)

    At TV market Mipcom in Cannes this week the team behind BBC-Hulu series “Normal People” – led by Lenny Abrahamson, the Oscar nominated director of “Room” – presented the first footage from the show, and explained how they approached the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel. Variety had exclusive access to the presentation. Ed Guiney, one [...]

  • El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

    ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie’ Scores 6.5 Million Viewers Across First Weekend

    “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,” which dropped on Netflix Oct. 11, drew around 6.5 million total viewers in its first three days on the streaming platform, according to Nielsen. The movie also reached just under 8.2 million unique TV viewers. “El Camino” unsurprisingly drew its biggest audience of the three days on day 1, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content