TORONTO — As he rises in the ranks of Hollywood, Toronto actor Stephan James has found himself fielding not only more scripts, but also many questions about a certain eating instrument.
“The concierge in my apartment wants to know about the fork,” James said with a laugh in a recent interview.
The Golden Globe-nominated star of Amazon Prime Video’s psychological thriller “Homecoming” was referring to a crucial and cryptic scene involving a fork and his amnesia-stricken character Walter Cruz in a diner in the season 1 finale.
The cutlery conundrum was a subtle moment but sparked many think pieces and fan queries.
Did Walter moving the fork slightly on the table indicate he remembered his time with social worker Heidi (Julia Roberts) in the Homecoming Initiative, a top-secret transitional support centre for troops returning to civilian life? Or was it a meaningless gesture?
James can only offer his own personal theory as the mystery-filled show enters its second season Friday.
“I don’t think that Walter really recognized Heidi in that moment, but perhaps he recognized her spirit. So I’ll leave it at that,” James said.
But did he at least get to keep the fork as a piece of memorabilia from the set?
“I’ve been looking for the fork for over a year now,” the 26-year-old said.
Based on a podcast by series creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, “Homecoming” is a noir story of corporate greed colliding with military interests.
In season 1, Walter and other former soldiers are put through a shady Geist Group wellness company program seemingly meant to help them move on — and forget — their battlefield trauma.
Amazon has asked that season 2 spoilers be kept under wraps until the launch, but what can be said is that Walter returns and is trying to rebuild his life.
Also returning is Hong Chau as Geist employee Audrey Temple.
New cast members include Janelle Monae, Chris Cooper, and Joan Cusack.
Not returning is Sam Esmail, who directed the first season. Instead, the new batch of episodes are helmed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez.
Cast members absent this season include Roberts, who is also an executive producer on the show. She only signed on to act for season 1 but did surprise the cast during filming of season 2.
“Janelle and I were in the middle of a scene and she pops around the corner in this round of applause, in a very Julia-esque way, and just took all the attention,” James said with a laugh.
“But she’s incredible. She has a great light, a great energy, a great spirit. She texted me, I want to say yesterday or two days ago, just with an old photo of us. So we check up on each other regularly.”
James also originally only signed on for the first season and was “elated” to be invited back to “get into the humanity and the psychology” of Walter, a character that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best actor last year.
“I felt for me, there was a lot of unfinished business as far as Walter was concerned, and so it was really a joy for me to come back and tie up the loose ends,” he said.
James’ other well-known film projects “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Selma” and “21 Bridges.”
He’s also starring in the new Quibi series #FreeRayshawn, about a man who turns to social media to try to prove his innocence during a standoff with New Orleans police.
“I think it’s really telling, this element of social media that people of colour have often used almost in a cry for help, and in a way to try and be protected and to rally the troops, if you will,” James said.
“I don’t know if those videos always work in our favour or are always able to help us.”
James grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough and is back in city after living in Los Angeles for a couple of years. He says he’s “trying to stay inside, stay creative” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He and his brother, fellow actor Shamier Anderson, have been giving back to the city’s arts community in recent years through their B.L.A.C.K. initiative.
The not-for-profit, which is an acronym for Building A Legacy In Acting Cinema and Knowledge, usually holds a B.L.A.C.K. Ball gala every year during the Toronto International Film Festival.
James said it doesn’t look like the gala will happen this year due to the pandemic, but they’re now in discussions for a possible online version of B.L.A.C.K.’s monologue slam competition.
The initiative sees 10 schools from Scarborough competing for prizes including Toronto Raptors tickets, headshots and acting advice.
“Things that me and my brother looked for while we were coming up in the industry in Toronto,” James said.
“Being able to give these young students a head start where that’s concerned has been something that’s been really, really rewarding.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2020.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press