Ever since I was a child, I was taught to see things in a positive light, to have a dream and to go for it. To not be told that something isn’t possible, but to find a way to make it possible. When an idea is sparked or dream set free within someone, you must go through the steps of ACTION to form the bridge between said goal and said dream. It is the ACTION philosophy that I am really drawn to. I surround myself with awesome people who love to try and fail, people who push their own boundaries, both mentally and physically and people who aren’t afraid of effort and the hard work to get their reward. I am not lucky…these people are all around us. My brother always says to me ” WoRk hARDEr- the promise of REWARD lies within”.
I was born on the 26th January 1980, in a beautiful town called Sevenoaks, Kent, England. My father had a job that required him to travel frequently and so just after I was born, we relocated to South Africa. The family spent 6 crazy and fun years there until 1986, when we returned back to the UK for our formal schooling.
My father continued to travel with his work, this time China, Germany, Switzerland and Malaysia, whilst my mum stayed behind and became the linchpin of our family, ensuring we had a stable childhood and good education. It was difficult to be separated as a family for such long periods of time, but thanks to the character and nature of my Mum, who taught us to see each upheaval and separation as another test to increase our strength, love and always find the positive outlook, it became our norm. I had a wonderful upbringing and for both my parents parts played, I am forever grateful.
The perks of my fathers job meant a lot of travel for us as a family and a lot of holidays. I got to see so much of the world at a young age, I travelled to different countries, experiencing different cultures, food, fashion, religion, music, behaviour, people, that to this day I am thankful to being exposed to, as I can clearly see their impact and effect on the shaping of me as an adult.
As a teenager all I could focus on was basketball and motorbikes, (two things I guess I never outgrew) but when it came to studying and the “what do you wanna be when you grow up” question, following the path of becoming a commercial airline pilot was always the answer. I guess with all the travel I had been exposed to, I simply wanted to continue that and go further. However by the time I reached 18, for whatever reason that dream had faded and I was really unsure of what was next.
Thanks to what I thought was a crazy suggestion at the time (or perhaps good old Mum intuition) I found myself changing education direction completely, turning a 180 and pursuing performing arts. I had never done anything regarding performing before. No acting, singing, dancing, (in fact, I was the only student in my school year to get out of drama lessons… I was terrified by it) and so, finding myself on a local college course at the age of 20 performing and then getting a scholarship to a top London school for further study in this area was very strange to say the least. Yet love and passion (both incredible fuels for success) pushed me further to my goal and 3 years later, I graduated, I got an agent and was auditioning.
I started in musicals; Footloose, Mamma Mia, Guys & Dolls and then back to Mamma Mia, but this time the film version. It was such an incredible opportunity, spending a few months in the summer of 2007 with the cast, the creatives, the crew and the buzz of movie making. My role was “blink and miss me” but the impact it had on me internally, sparked a fire for film and story telling, a feeling that since then has only intensified and became clearer.
I remember wanting to work with different playwrights and their texts, I wanted to work with prolific directors, I wanted to to work in the iconic venues and theatres across London with some of the best if not the best actors around. I wanted to understand the craft and the art of story telling, I wanted to learn, really learn. But without having an extensive drama training background, my options in classical or straight play theatre were limited. I knew if I got a job on the ground floor, a small role within a exceptional team, I could climb up. I wanted to go back to school and work at the same time, learning from the greats within the industry, paying my dues and studying the craft.
Over the next few years, I worked at the famous National Theatre on the Olivier stage for director Michael Grandage and alongside the actor Toby Stephans in a play called Danton’s Death. I worked with director Jamie Lloyd on three of his productions, a modern comedy called “The Little Dog Laughed” at the Piccadilly theatre; the beautiful harrowing story of the French icon singer Edith Piaf in a play for the Donmar titled “Piaf”; and finally at the prestigious Old Vic Theatre, a classical play by John Webster called “The Duchess of Mali”.
During this time and in between theatre roles I booked a few film and TV jobs with shows such as Red Dwarf, Hotel Babylon, Material Girl and Sirens. These roles were small but gratefully received as my opportunity to learn from those with the desired experience expanded. I worked with director Elliot Lester in a Film called “Blitz” for Lionsgate starring Jason Statham and for director Mitch Davis, I played the confused “Nick” in the film Christmas Eve starring Patrick Stewart.
In 2015 and 2016, I was thrilled to earn a place in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, working in both of his Shakespeare plays. Firstly “The Winters’ Tale” starring Sir Kenneth himself and the equally iconic Dame Judi Dench. It was my first taste of Shakespeare and to spend it amongst “acting royalty” is an experience I will never forget. In 2016 I was invited back to the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company to join the cast of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Sir Derek Jacobi, Lily James and Richard Madden. I played the role of Prince Escalus in this 1950’s Italian Dolce Vita version which made the summer months in London even hotter.
Immediately after Romeo and Juliet finished, I landed a job on a UK TV commercial for “Vanquis Credit Card”. The commercial’s tongue ‘n’ cheek homage to the Game of Thrones TV show led to 6 more commercials in total and built a fun fanbase following. (click the Vanquis section in Action All Areas for more details).
Zach Synder’s Justice League was next. A comic book high action story about ensuring Superman’s ultimate sacrifice wasn’t in vain, in which Bruce Wayne recruits a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions was Action to say the least!!! My role was again small but the impact on me was amazing. Working with Zach, who always dresses like a boss, commands the set like a boss and makes everyone feel extremely valuable was simply wonderful (he is the boss) and in 2021 I was delighted to see his version get released.
In early 2017 I secured the title role in Pure Flix’s biblical epic “Samson”; a film version of the iconic story about a man who must lead his people to freedom. Working alongside director Bruce MacDonald, I was blessed with the opportunity to put the previous decade of work/study/going back to school to practice. All the material I had been exposed to, all the greats I had worked with, the experience I had amassed and skill set I had learnt, gave me the tools to step forward to the platform of my dreams which ten years prior was just a spark. The amazing cast and crew filmed in and around the Stellenbosch area of South Africa for a handful of months and we set the date for cinematic release of the film in early 2018. (Click the Samson section in Action All Areas for more details).
Following Samson, I worked for Netflix, School of Humans and Triscope Studios in the incredible adaptation of the brave and beautiful WWII story tilted “The Liberator” written for the mini series by Jeb Stuart. The revolutionary live animation mix directed by Grzegorz Jonkajtys was such a phenomenal experience not only for its pioneering camera/acting animation technology mix, but for the immersive world that was created by the team and felt by us as the actors. (Click the Liberator section in Action All Areas for more details).
I was delighted when I had the chance to work for Sir Kenneth Branagh again, especially for a motion capture fest of fun in his Disney production of Artemis Fowl. I had not worked extensively with motion capture and facial recognition before but Ken knew I was physically capable and it was a delight to learn the skill, have fun and wreak havoc doing it.
Following this I was equally thrilled to have the opportunity to work for Jeb Stuart again on his next Netflix venture, Vikings: Valhalla for seasons 2&3. (2023/2024) The original show Vikings, by Michael Hirst had been such a success for 6 seasons and when it was announced that they were continuing with the saga in an even more multi story lined show.. getting the call to play Batu was great. (Click the Vikings: Valhalla section in Action All Areas for more details).
Over the coming years, other projects will continue to add to the story of my life and become the “more” of about me. These experiences will hopefully allow me to stay true to myself and help others how I have been helped. Action is something I am, something I love, something I do. A way in which I behave based on the brave mindset that is fuelled by love and passion.
Taylor Action James.
On a side note, the moment I locked onto “Taylor Action James” was with Greg Kriek, the actor and friend who played Caleb in Samson. As we filmed the epic 1000 man jaw bone fight, one sequence involved me throwing one of the 1000 Philistine soldiers off the cliff. The roar as I let him fly was echoed by Greg’s positive shout out response…. “Taylor Action James” the rest is history.