Born in Fontana, CA James was raised in Los Angeles to a mother who hosted a syndicated alien talk radio show in Las Vegas and a father who was a cop and a blue chip basketball coach coaching the best players in Southern California to NCAA teams. Growing up, James excelled in both sports and theater. He starred as Charlie in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in elementary school. He was named All-League in both water polo and basketball during his senior year in high school. At age 18, James was recruited to be a Search and Rescue for the US Navy. After an honorable discharge, James moved to New York City to explore and expand his opportunities in the Arts. He became a stage hand for numerous Off- Broadway plays, which gave him the opportunity to attend and eventually act in Broadway productions.