Lucky to tell cool stories with really cool people: ‘Homecoming’ star Stephan James

NEW DELHI : Hollywood star Stephan James calls himself a “fan of great stories” and as someone who has played lead roles in Barry Jenkins’ film “If Beale Street Could Talk” and Amazon series “Homecoming”, the young actor says he wants to continue to be a part of “art that reflects life in society”.

James, 26, is coming back for his second innings on “Homecoming”, which introduced his talent to global audiences.

“I don’t claim to be a politician or an activist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve had an incredible opportunity in my life to be a part of telling stories that matter. To be a part of art that reflects life in society and that can in turn, maybe, change the world.

“For me, I think that is sort of my guiding light for the roles I choose and the people I indulge with. At the core of it all, I’ve just been a fan of great stories,” James said in response to a question from PTI during a virtual group interview.

Saying yes to the opportunity of sharing the screen space with Hollywood icon Julia Roberts or speaking the lines written by celebrated American author James Baldwin was a no-brainer for James.

“When you look at something like a ‘Beale Street’ that’s directed by Barry Jenkins, and I get to say the words of James Baldwin, the great literary genius, I mean that should get anyone excited.

“So, it was a no-brainer to take on things like that. When someone says, ‘You get to tell a story about veterans re-acclimating to civilian life. Oh, by the way, Julia Roberts is the star opposite you.’ It’s kind of a no-brainer. So I’ve just been really, really lucky to tell cool stories with really, really cool people.”

On the second season of “Homecoming”, James returns sans Roberts, who is executive producing the show. Actor-singer Janelle Monae will fill in for Roberts as series lead.

James reprises his character of Walter Cruz, who is trying to lead a new life after the trauma of war and the Homecoming initiative that tampered with his memories.

Monae stars as a mysterious woman who wakes up to find herself floating in a canoe, with no memory of how she got there or even the idea about who she is.

James said though the second season builds up the story from the first season, it very much felt like its “own thing”.

“‘Homecoming’ first season was obviously incredible as I was very fortunate to be able to share my scenes with the great Julia Roberts. But for me, this season just felt like its own thing.

“It just felt like a new thing. I tried not to compare it to that first season too much. Though they’re connected, they sort of feel like they’re their own separate worlds.”

The actor was all praise for Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who succeeded Sam Esmail as the director for the second season.

“A big credit goes to our director who did a great job of taking this season forward. It could be a daunting task for any new director to take on a show that already exists and already has a fan base. But he really took it on fearlessly and was able to give us a whole new world that was different but equal in richness to that of the one Sam Esmail built in the first season.

“For me, it was just great. I had great partners in the first season in Julia and Sam, and that really didn’t change with Janelle Monae and Kyle Patrick Alvarez.”

What James particularly liked about the second season was the chance to go deeper into the character and present the sides that the viewers haven’t yet seen of Walter.

“I got to do a lot more of building the humanity and showing people the man behind the soldier from season one. I got to stray from that naivete, aloofness and sort of vulnerability that just had to be accepted from all during that first season. We kind of flipped that on its head.

“Walter has a whole new mission. He has a target determination to not only figure out what happened to him in the first season, but to also right the wrongs and gain some sort of vengeance. So, for me that was exciting going into the second season.”

“Homecoming” is based on the podcast of the same name created by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, who serve as the showrunners on the series.

The show’s second season, which will also feature Chris Cooper, Hong Chau and Joan Cusack, will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on May 22. (AGENCIES)


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