You remember him from Race, and Stephan James is packing a powerful punch as the naive but determined special prosecutor Preston Terry in Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood’s riveting new mini-series, Shots Fired.
Along with fixer and private investigator Ashe Akino (Sanaa Lathan), Preston is trying to unravel what actually happened when a South Carolina town’s only Black deputy shoots and kills an unarmed white college student. It might appear that this story is ripped straight from the headlines, but if you know the Bythewoods work, you know that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Though he’s only 23, James’s role as Preston certainly isn’t his first rodeo. The Canadian actor first appeared on the wildly popular Canadian teen drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation. James was able to propel that success into two-period pieces including Ava DuVernay’s Selma where he portrayed civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis, and in 2016’s Race where he starred as legendary track and field sprinter, Jesse Owens.
Still, with his role on Shots Fired, which is packed full of sensational writing and actors, James is proving that he’s more than ready to take on even more hard hitting subjects. While the cast was filming Shots Fired they learned of the death of Philando Castile, an unarmed Black motorist who was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota. Castile’s death made the series’ narrative particularly solemn. James told CBC Radio, “It was grueling to shoot sometimes, but no story worth telling is going to be an easy process. Unfortunately, we had so much source material — it wasn’t something we had to fathom.”
When James isn’t shattering our expectations, he’s speaking out about the need for more diversity in the entertainment industry. He told The Guardian, “Of course I have to work double times harder, of course, I have to be that much smarter about my choices and take advantage of every opportunity that does come to me, knowing that the opportunities that do come to me are probably limited.”
You can catch Stephan James on Shots Fired which airs Wednesdays at 8 PM ET on FOX.