From Cockney Showdowns to Ancient Judea – Actor Noah James Shares his story

Actor and director Noah James shared his story of pursuing a career in the arts, along with wisdom for theater students as they enter the industry.

Rachel Fleagle, Section Editor

Actor and director Noah James shared his story of pursuing a career in the arts, along with wisdom for theater students as they enter the industry.

James, originally from Arizona, has been acting since he was a high school freshman. He currently plays Andrew in “The Chosen”, a multi-season show about the life of Jesus.

“The Chosen is – it really is filling in the life and humanity and passion and relationships of ancient Judea, as seen from the Bible,” James explained. He said it follows the lives of different characters and how Jesus weaves into their stories.

He explained that the show is different because “it’s taking the time to not just tell the ending. I think that’s kind of what happens a lot with stories about Jesus, is it just tells the end or the last few days.” James said the show “does what TV does best, which is tell long-form stories.”

Before acting in “The Chosen”, James was involved in many other theater productions, along with short films and television work. He played a minor role in a “Gilmore Girls” episode and was in a preliminary scene from “La La Land”. James also performed at the Odyssey Theatre and with the New American Theatre.

But before Hollywood, it was a high school play that launched James’ interest in acting. “It’s only in high school that you audition in kind of strange ways. It doesn’t happen out in the professional world,” he laughed.

James auditioned for the school play “See How They Run” by Phillip King, trying to create a Cockney accent by imitating “Shrek” characters. After he got a callback, he and a senior faced off in a Cockney battle of the ages.

James explained they were told to simultaneously perform the part while everyone watched, which he said, “was also something that would never, ever happen, ever, in a professional setting.”

“I knew nothing of nuance or anything, so I literally just stood on stage and out-projected the other dude. Unfortunate for him that I am just a loud man,” he laughed, adding, “I went a little slower than him so that the very last line could be me in all my Cockney glory.”

James won the part, which launched him into a love of both acting and the theater community. 

While in high school, he acted in “Jake’s Women,” a Neil Simons play. They performed it for another group of theater students, and James said, “There was something about other artists coming, and sharing the work with them, and I so loved that – that in that moment I kind of knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.”

After high school, he attended the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, as well as England’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He moved to Los Angeles in 2012.

Alongside theater, James was a founding member of the audio drama “King Falls AM”, which has millions of viewers and ran five years.

Noah James and Shahar Isaac in The Chosen (Courtesy of The Chosen)

James also auditioned for the short film “The Shepherd”, directed by Dallas Jenkins. He didn’t get a callback, never knowing he was one of their top choices for the part. When he auditioned for “The Chosen”, James didn’t realize Jenkins directed both, or that the director had remembered James and asked for him to audition for it.

After Jenkins greeted him and thanked him for coming, James thought he must have him confused with a different actor. “I was like – he thinks I’m someone else. Finally, I had to tell him after we, like, hugged, I’m like – ‘Dude, I’m so sorry, you think I’m someone else.’”

However, Jenkins had personally requested for James to audition. He worked with James to find the best character fit for him, which was Andrew.  “I love my character,” James said, explaining how his character evolves and changes during the show.

“Once I [Andrew] meet and see Jesus, something shifts, something changes…there’s a weight that’s dropped off my shoulders. And once that happens, another side of Andrew is able to come out.”

Although James loves his profession, he had warnings and wisdom for theatre students stepping into the field. He explained the transition from having a set schedule to being in complete charge of your time is very difficult, and it’s imperative to manage that time well and be responsible.

He also recommended analyzing, dissecting, and recreating “the art form that you want to be in”, and to be healthy and ready for when opportunities arise.

“You need to take care of yourself, your mental health. It’s going to be hard, and that’s not to scare anyone. It’s to say really don’t take for granted your mental health. Really take care of yourself.”

James said downtime can be one of the hardest parts in acting, and “it’s one of the most important factors to whether you have longevity in your career.”

Noah James and others as the disciples in The Chosen (Courtesy of The Chosen)

He encouraged actors to tape themselves acting and watch it, create their own work, and take acting classes. James also offered encouragement for actors who choose to change careers.

“Life is strange, and things come up. And artists sometimes – I have a lot of friends who went to school for acting, super talented, and then they decide that they want to be writers instead, or producers, or directors, or leave the field entirely. All of that – there’s no shame in changing your focus.”

James is reprising his role as Andrew in Season Two of “The Chosen”, and viewers have been following behind-the-scenes footage for months. It continues to tell a story that the audience can relate to, although it is set in ancient times.

“We’re all human beings – it hasn’t changed that much in 2,000 years. People have been betraying each other, loving each other, fighting with each other, supporting each other, for our entire history as humankind. So we want that life in the show as well,” he said.

“The Chosen” is directed by Dallas Jenkins, son of Christian author Jerry B. Jenkins. In 2019, PR Newswire reported the show “raised over $10 million in crowdfunding from over 16,000 investors, unseating ‘Mystery Science Theatre 3000’ as the #1 crowdfunded film or TV project in history.” The show offers multiple ways to view Season 1, including for free on their app.