Lennie James is an English actor who has gained fame for portraying Morgan Jones in the TV series ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, Sol in the movie ‘Snatch’, and Mister Cotton in the movie ‘Blade Runner 2049’. He is also a renowned screenwriter and playwright and has penned the TV show, ‘Save Me’, as well as the 2004 play, ‘The Sons of Charlie Paora’. Originally from Nottingham, James was initially interested in being a professional rugby player. That changed when he auditioned for his first school play. He studied at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and became active in the entertainment industry immediately after graduating from there. In 1988, he made his screen debut in an episode of the TV show ‘Screenplay’. He had his cinematic debut nine years later, in the comedy-drama ‘The Perfect Blue’. For his performance in ‘The Walking Dead’, James won the Online Film & Television Association Award for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2013.
Childhood & Early Life
Born to Afro-Trinidadian parents on October 11, 1965, in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, Lennie James grew up in South London with his brother Kester. His mother, Phyllis Mary James, was raising her two sons by herself before she passed away when Lennie was ten years old.
He and Kester were given the option to go to the United States and live with a relative there. However, they chose to remain in England and spent the following eight years of their lives in foster care.
While he was a student at Ernest Bevin College, his main aspiration was to become a professional rugby player. His attention shifted to acting after he followed a girl he liked to an audition of a play.
He subsequently enrolled at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, from where he earned his degree in 1988. During his time there, he once organised a protest in support of a student who was going to be expelled. James considers this to be the bravest thing he has ever done.
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For a period, Lennie James worked for the British government's social security office. After debuting in the BBC anthology series ‘Screenplay’ in 1988, James was cast as Baptiste in Channel 4’s 1991 miniseries ‘The Orchid House’.
In BBC One’s thriller series ‘Civvies’ (1992), he portrayed Cliff Morgan. Between 1995 and 1996, he played DC Bruce Hannaford in both the seasons of ‘Out of the Blue’.
In his film debut, Kieron J. Walsh’s directorial venture, ‘The Perfect Blue’ (1997), he was cast as Danny. He worked with Matt LeBlanc, William Hurt, and Gary Oldman in the 1998 cinematic adaptation of ‘Lost in Space’. That year, he essayed the role of the fictional French revolutionary leader Enjolras in Bille August’s film adaptation of ‘Les Misérables’.
In BBC One’s six-part crime-drama series ‘Undercover Heart’ (1998), he was cast as Matt Lomas, a detective who gets involved in an extramarital affair. He played a small-time crook named Sol in Guy Ritchie’s classic crime comedy film ‘Snatch’ (2000).
In 2001, he shared screen space with James Nesbitt, Timothy Spall, and Olivia Williams in the comedy film ‘Lucky Break’.
James played Alan Erasmus, one of the co-founders of Factory Records in the 2002 comedy-drama film ‘24 Hour Party People’ that revolves around the now-defunct independent British music record label Factory Records and its effect on Manchester's popular music community between 1976 and 1992.
In 2005, he appeared in the box-office failure ‘Sahara’. In the following year, he starred in the miniseries ‘The State Within’ as Luke Gardner. James was cast as the mysterious Robert "Rob" Hawkins in the CBS dystopian action drama series ‘Jericho’ (2006-08) and its web series spin-off ‘Countdown’ (2006).
In 2010, he had a recurring role in Fox’s action drama series ‘Human Target’. James played a pimp in the HBO comedy-drama series ‘Hung’ (2010-11).
In 2013, he appeared in the AMC crime drama series ‘Low Winter Sun’. He was cast as Glen Boyle, trauma consultant and team leader, in the Sky 1 medical drama series ‘Critical’ (2015).
James starred as Mister Cotton in ‘Blade Runner 2049’, the 2017 sequel to the 1982 film ‘Blade Runner’.
For Sky Atlantic, James developed the 2018 crime thriller show ‘Save Me’, which revolves around a penniless, sofa-surfing womaniser named Nelson "Nelly" Rowe, portrayed by James himself. The show has garnered positive reception from the critics and has been renewed for a second series.
In 2004, James’ play, ‘The Sons of Charlie Paora’, opened at The Royal Court Theatre in London.
Lennie James first appeared as Morgan Jones in the AMC series ‘The Walking Dead’ in its pilot episode in 2010. He made another guest appearance in season three. In season five, Jones became a recurring character, and was promoted to join the main cast in the sixth season. He departed from the main show in season eight to portray Jones in the companion series, ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ (2018-present).
Family & Personal Life
Lennie James has been in a relationship with Giselle Glasman for a long while. The couple has three daughters, Romy (born 1990) and twins Celine and Georgia (born 1994). The family resides in Los Angeles, California.