Stephan James likes being bridge for ‘Homecoming’

Rick's Reviews

Stephan James reprises his role of Walter Cruz for the second season of “Homecoming.” (Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime VIdeo)

(KGET) — Stephan James knew when he was making the first season of the Amazon Prime Video series “Homecoming” that there would be a second season. He just didn’t know if he was going to be a part of it.

“I didn’t know what it was going to look like,” James says. “I had only agreed to do one season with Amazon so getting the call to come back and do season two was something I was thrilled about.”

There’s a very good reason the idea of reprising the role of military veteran Walter Cruz would make James so happy. His work in the streaming series earned him a Golden Globe nomination in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama category. That’s something that had not happened with other highly praised work by James in “Race” and “Selma.”

The first season of “Homecoming” revolved around Cruz being part of an experimental program to help those dealing with mental and emotional trauma from being in battle. The drugs did help the soldiers forget what caused them to have so much pain but it also wiped away a lot of their memory.

The second season – available through the streaming service starting May 22 – focuses on a character played by Janelle Monáe (“Lady and the Tramp”).  She wakes in a rowboat floating aimlessly on a lake, with no memory of how she got there or even who she is. Her search for answers brings her to the Geist Group, the unconventional wellness company behind the Homecoming Initiative. 

James picks up with Cruz trying to build a new life following the traumas of war and the Homecoming Initiative. He begins to realize that there’s an even more insidious version of the program underway – if only he can remember.

“I was happy to get the chance with season two to tie up all these loose ends and bring closure to the story and two Walter,” James says. “This was a chance to understand Walter’s ultimate purpose in wanting to get his life back to normal.”

The chance to play out the story of his character was something James wanted to do for the fans and also for himself. He laughs and adds that it may have been more for his own selfish reasons but is happy everyone benefited.

James sees his appearance in the second season of “Homecoming” as a bridge. He loved the idea that the second season would deal with unanswered questions but would be told from a completely different point of view.

He didn’t worry that his work in the first season was so good it earned him huge critical praise and that he would have to try to recapture that magic.

“I just hope they like Walter as much in the second season as they did in the first,” James says.

“Homecoming” is the latest work for the Canadian actor that includes the films “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “12 Dates of Christmas,” “Home Again,” “The Globe and Mail” and “Pride of Lions.”

He got his start in television with a recurring role for two seasons on the teen series “Degrassi.” Other TV credits include “Shots Fired,” “How to Be Indie,” “The Listener,”  “Clue” and “My Babysitter’s a Vampire.”

James has put together a long list of credits despite only being 27 years old. He jokes that makes him both a rookie and a veteran.

The first season of “Homecoming” gave him the opportunity to work with one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Many of his scenes were with Julia Roberts who played both a caseworker at a secret government facility in the series and serves as one of the executive producers.

James admits he stumbled a few times at the start because he was super nervous.

“But, Julia is one of the most normal people I know,” James says. “She has a way about her that is incredibly disarming and makes you feel like a human being.

“I know it is hard for most people because she is this larger-than-life person people have been watching their entire lives. But, for me, she just really had a way about her that made me feel like a friend.”

As for the rest of the cast of “Homecoming,” Hong Chau returns as Audrey Temple, an anonymous underling at Geist who finds herself thrust into positions at the top of the corporate ladder. Joining the cast for the second season are: Oscar-winner Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the company’s eccentric founder; and Emmy-winner Joan Cusack as Francine Bunda, an equally eccentric military woman.

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