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At Age 13, Birmingham’s Blake James Making Name in Entertainment Industry

At age 13, Blake James’s resume reads like that of a television/Hollywood heavyweight. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson

The Birmingham Times

Even though he’s only 13 years old, Blake James’s resume reads like that of a television/Hollywood heavyweight—Nickelodeon, Kellogg’s, AT&T, Sony Pictures.

Blake is not only good at what he does, but he enjoys the excitement of the entertainment industry.

“I just love being around the cast and crew members and acting. I know it’s a cliché, but when they say ‘Action,’ it’s an adrenaline rush,” said Blake, who jumped into the entertainment industry in 2022, when he was completing sixth grade at Berry Middle School in Hoover, Alabama.

Blake “didn’t even make the graduation,” he said, as he began work on his first project for the Nickelodeon television network and his first-ever television project, “Little Lens: Everyday Life Through the Eyes of Black Children.” One of the segments, titled “Meet My Hero,” featured James sharing memorable stories that helped shape his life.

According to his mom, 44-year-old corporate manager Tuesday James, Blake chose to share the story of his paternal grandfather, who was “the first Black person to go to his middle school [in New Market AL] and play football there,” he said during the project.

During the team’s first game, Blake’s grandfather, Gus, was the team’s quarterback, but his linemen wouldn’t block for him and the opposing team “wanted to hurt him,” so the coach took Gus out of the game. Blake added that his grandfather is his hero because “it was brave of him to keep going to that middle school.”

Blake, who considers his grandfather an inspiration for his love of both sports and singing, has been acting for just two and a half years, beginning in 2021, even though the seed was planted years earlier by extended family in Orlando, Florida.

“When I would visit them, they kept me telling me that I needed to be on TV, so eventually, I gave it a shot,” he said.

“I Got It”

While “Little Lens” was Blake’s first television project, there was also an AT&T commercial in which he was cast as the lead of the children who interacted with NBA Hall of Famer and Alabama native Charles Barkley. Blake’s dad, business entrepreneur Cameron James, 45, says he was nervous for his son at this particular audition because Blake wasn’t sure which role he’d score until the very last moment.

“As he was walking on set, he didn’t know which character he would be cast as,” said Cameron. “He said, ‘Dad, I’m alright. I know [all the characters’] lines. Whoever I’m supposed to be, I got it.’”

For Blake, that’s the fun part of his job. Learning his lines, he said, is “like studying for a test, but it’s more fun than studying for a test. People always ask me how I memorize the lines, but it’s easy to do. And I memorize other characters, too, so I’ll know when to say my lines.”

Blake said the acting “bug” bit when he was about 11 years old.

His latest project is an upcoming project with Sony Pictures, a movie entitled “We Grown Now.” In the film—which is about two boys growing up in Cabrini Green, a housing project in Chicago, Illinois—Blake is the main character and goes by the on-screen name Malik. “We Grown Now” debuted in September 2023 at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the Changemaker Award.

Blake also appeared in “The Sound of Christmas,” a Black Entertainment Television (BET) original movie, with Grammy-award-winning artist Ne-Yo. Blake displayed both his acting chops and his singing talent, which impressed Ne-Yo so much that he affectionately gave the young actor the title of “Big Blake.”

A Humble Spirit

Blake is the baby brother in his close-knit family of four. His older brother, 18-year-old Chase James, is a student-athlete at a high school in Phoenix, Arizona, who formerly attended Spain Park High School in Hoover. Like his brother, Blake grew up playing sports: basketball and football.

“I actually love to play basketball and football, and we’re a sports family, so that’s what we grew up thinking I would do,” said Blake.

On set, he makes it a point to make sure people are seen when he’s working.

“The crew members are not normally seen,” said Tuesday James. “They have thankless jobs, but Blake …. made sure to create a new handshake for each one of them to make them feel seen while on the set of ‘We Grown Now.’”

Because Blake is a minor, a parent must be present on location when he is filming. For his parents, it means juggling schedules, negotiating with their team members at work, and leaving their home for weeks or months at a time. For Blake, it means forgoing the city he loves, Hoover, to film in national and international locations.

Some would probably consider the frequent travelling a dream come true, “but as soon as we get back to Birmingham, Blake always says, ‘It’s so good to be back home,’” his mother said.

Familiar Faces

The James family from left: Cameron, Blake and Tuesday. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

Blake agreed and added that the biggest challenge is, “hands down, being away from family and friends.”

“When I’m on location, I have friends, but it’s not the same as being with your best friends at home,” he said.

Blake’s parents arrange for his older sibling and others to come visit while Blake is working to make sure he gets to see familiar faces.

“I’m a Christian, too,” Blake said. “I pray a lot, and God helps me get through the loneliness.”

Cameron James owns several businesses and arranges time in his schedule to go on location with Blake. There is a level of sacrifice involved, he said: “I have an incredible team of people I work with in real estate, [one of my businesses], so I am able to spend time with Blake and help my wife.”

“When people see me on set, they say, ‘It is so good to see you because it’s rare that fathers join their children while filming. It’s usually the mothers who are here,’” Cameron added.

According to Blake’s mom, the juggle is real.

“Let’s say Blake has to be on location for three months. I may go and be there three weeks,” said Tuesday, who oversees 14 employees as a corporate manager. “His dad will then come, we overlap a week and are there together, then one of us [comes to be with] our oldest son, Chase. We want to be present in both of our sons’ lives, so it takes a lot of sacrifice.”

Tuesday has been working at her company for 17 years and says her management team and employees have been very understanding.

“It takes a village,” she said. “We have family that steps in and helps, too. When we are traveling, sometimes, grandparents have to stay with our oldest son.”

A Bright Future

The James family prepares to spend six months, starting in January, in Canada to begin filming Blake’s next project. It’s nothing new for them, though, as they travel often and have the standing luggage to prove it.

“You should see upstairs. There are a bunch of suitcases. We have to stay ready,” said Cameron, adding that it’s a privilege none of them take lightly.

“I remember one night Blake came to me and, crying, asked me why God chose him to do this,” said Cameron. “I said to him, ‘Why not you? Just remember to give God glory in all that you do.’”

And Blake followed his father’s advice. After he completed an interview on the red-carpet debut of “The Sound of Music,” he went back and said to the interviewer, “I want to give glory and honor to God and credit Him for giving me this opportunity.”

Blake’s parents say they will not push him, but they will continue to support him as more projects come his way.

Blake keeps it simple: “I want to be as successful as I can and spread the word of God.”