Childhood & Early Life
Robert James-Collier was born Robert Collier, on September 23, 1976, in Salford, Greater Manchester, England, to Anne and James Collier. He used his father’s name as his middle name in order to avoid being mistaken for another actor and also to comply with the rules of ‘Equity.’
With no background in films or theater, he did not even think of being an actor until he was in his mid-20s. He was born into a working-class family and was academically inclined. He finished his high-school graduation and joined the ‘University of Huddersfield’ to study business.
Following his graduation from the university, he earned a marketing degree from the ‘University of Manchester.’
Following his college graduation, he did internships for a year. He then worked at a bricklaying factory and also at pastry shops. Around the same time, he also began part-time modeling to earn some extra income.
His foray into acting happened as an accident. He was asked by one of his friends to fill in for an absent actor in an independent film. He did that out of courtesy but ended up liking the whole experience.
This drove him to start taking acting classes after his work. He took one acting class per week. In his mid-20s, he began auditioning for TV and film roles and made his acting debut in 2005.
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In 2005, he made his acting debut with the supporting role of ‘Alex’ in the TV film titled ‘Perfect Day.’ The film was such a huge critical and commercial success that it was followed by both a sequel and a prequel.
The same year, he began appearing in the series titled ‘Down to Earth,’ playing the supporting role of ‘Nicky Christy’ in the final season of the series, which was a critical and commercial success.
Robert then made a series of guest appearances in series such as ‘Shameless’ and ‘Casualty.’ In an episode of the series ‘Dalziel and Pascoe,’ titled ‘The Cave Woman: Part 2,’ Robert essayed ‘Simon Thewlis.’
In 2006, Robert got a huge career break when he was cast as ‘Liam Connor,’ one of the key roles in the soap opera titled ‘Coronation Street.’ He made his first appearance on the show in August 2006 and continued to play ‘Liam’ for the next 2 years. His character eventually became one of the most-admired characters on the show.
Although Robert had become a household name owing to his role in ‘Coronation Street,’ he was afraid of getting stereotyped. Hence, he requested the show’s producers to “kill” his character. He made his last appearance on the show in 2008. However, his decision to leave the show was highly criticized by the show’s fans.
He portrayed ‘Liam’ for 330 episodes and also ended up winning many awards and accolades for his role. Apart from winning the ‘Best Exit Award’ at the 2009 ‘British Soap Awards,’ he also won the ‘Sexiest Male Award’ at the ‘Inside Soap Awards’ in 2007 and 2008.
His fears of getting stereotyped came true when (according to him) following his exit from ‘Coronation Street,’ he remained jobless for 2 years straight.
However, in 2010, he earned the role that turned his career around for good. He was signed to play ‘Thomas Barrow’ in the period drama titled ‘Downton Abbey.’ His character was a gay butler who was the reason behind any weird event in the series.
‘Thomas Barrow’ became the most-loved character in the series, and ‘Downton Abbey’ ended up becoming one of the most successful and highly rated British dramas of all time.
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In 2011, Robert appeared as ‘Callum,’ one of the leading roles in the war drama film titled ‘Mercenaries.’ The film received average success at the box office and got lukewarm reviews from critics.
After playing a supporting role in the film ‘Spike Island,’ he was seen playing the lead role in the film ‘A Christmas Star.’ Additionally, he also appeared in series such as ‘Love Life’ and ‘The Level’.
In 2017, he appeared playing one of the lead roles in the supernatural horror film titled ‘The Ritual.’ The film premiered at the ‘Toronto International Film Festival’ and was a critical and commercial success.
In the more recent years, he was seen making guest appearances in series such as ‘Urban Myths,’ ‘Death in Paradise,’ and ‘Vera.’
In 2019, he appeared in the film spin-off of ‘Downton Abbey’ and reprised his role as ‘Thomas Barrow.’
He has also been seen as ‘Martin Evershed’ in the drama series titled ‘Ackley Bridge.’ Robert joined the series in its third season.