Actor, sculptor, soldier, champ? ‘Homecoming’ may give Stephan James an Oscar boost for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

Stephan James is campaigning for Best Actor Oscar honors for his breakthrough role in the upcoming drama “If Beale Street Could Talk.” That could be a challenge for an actor so young — he’ll only be 25-years-old on Oscar nominations morning, which would make him the seventh youngest nominee of all time. But if any voters are concerned about his experience, he has already been working for years, and they can also see him this fall in a second starring role in Amazon’s “Homecoming.”

The streaming series stars James as Walter Cruz, a soldier being treated for post traumatic stress disorder at a facility run by a possibly misguided therapist (Julia Roberts). The first season of the series premiered on November 2 and was acclaimed by critics, with James singled out for his “innate warmth,” “easy charisma” and seemingly “effortless” acting choices.

It’s quite a different role from Fonny Hunt, the lovestruck sculptor falsely accused of a crime in “Beale Street.” That film opens on November 30, just a few weeks after “Homecoming’s” bow, so academy members will be exposed to him twice in one season. And they may already remember him from a couple of previous noteworthy roles: he played John Lewis in “Selma” (2014) and Jesse Owens in “Race” (2016).

Awards voters might see him pop up twice at events along the Oscar campaign trail. The Golden Globes honor both film and television; they love buzzy new shows like “Homecoming,” and with two lead-acting categories for films (one for drama actors, one for musical/comedy actors) he may have more room to breathe for “Beale Street” too. The Critics’ Choice Awards also recognize both film and TV work, as do the SAG Awards.

Momentum is important in any awards campaign; the more times voters see your name listed among the year’s best, the more they’ll want to jump on the bandwagon. So will “Homecoming” make Oscar voters want to welcome Stephan James home for “Beale Street”?

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on January 22.

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