Most people reading this will know my preferred middle name of “Action” however, if we go by what’s in the passport or even what name I use for a resturant booking it’s Taylor Robert Aaron James, I just think “Action” sums me up in a multitude of ways. I’ll get to that later……
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 and so the family moved around with him. Up until the time I was born, he, my mum and brother had previously spent 3 years in Nigeria and after a very brief period back in the UK (to birth me) we moved on again, this time to South Africa and it was there that I spent my early years.
In 1986, we moved back home to Kent so my brother and I could start schooling. My father’s job meant it was time for him to move on, this time, without the family, living in China, for 4 years. It was difficult to be separated from him at such a young age and for such long periods of time. To say I missed him was an understatement; however, we grew closer as a family thanks to the character and nature of my Mum. She was the linchpin in this tough time, her strength and her positive outlook was unbreakable, and for that, my brother and I will always be grateful. The 4 years passed quickly and my father returned home, only to be told work needed him to move on again. Another upheaval and separation, but another test of strength and finding the positive moments from Mum. It became a game within the family, a way to always look for the positive, a way to always be grateful and mindful of your situation. Never lose that quality.
It wasn’t all sadness and separation, 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 I grew into my teenage years, 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” questions, 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 try to make a living from it. I was obsessed with airplanes and airports, I got friends and family to bring back the airline safety cards, napkins, cutlery, anything they could get their hands on..I kept it all and for my birthday, I just wanted to go to the airport and soak it all in. Perhaps it was the academic struggle, or simply “dream over time” dilution, but in my late teen years and after a few months of not knowing where to go, feeling lost of what to do, I found myself changing direction completely, turning a 180 and pursuing performing.
I had never done anything regarding performing before. No acting, singing, dancing, (well aside from goofing around in the safety of my own home) in fact, I was the only student in my school year to get out of drama lessons… I was terrified by it. So, finding myself on a local college course performing at the age of 20 and then getting a scholarship to a top London school for further study in this area was crazy. But passion is an attribute and is accountable for so many successful things in life 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 for 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 three more commercials (click the Vanquis section in Action All Areas for more details).
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).
And finally, back to Taylor “Action” James.
The following is to be taken lightly, someone once told me, “if you grip too tightly onto everything in life, you squeeze the fun out of it” so, with that said…. It’s time for Action!!!
On the surface, it’s obvious and apparent that as a man working within the film/acting world and performing action sequences/stunts, I have a desire to adopt the word Action to best describe me. However the word Action connects with me in a multitude of ways which go above and beyond the predictable or film related connotation. 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’s the action philosophy that I’m 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 hard work to get their reward. These people are all around us. My brother always says to me ” WoRk hARDEr- the promise of REWARD lies within”.
So Action is something I want do, something I am, something I love, a way in which I behave, a style of film, a brave mindset….
But 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.