The young and versatile American actor, Liam James, is on the way way back, coming of age on television and the big screen.
Most viewers probably know him as Jack Linden the 14-year-old son of the lead character, DI Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), in The Killing, the US version of the hit Danish original, Forbrydelsen. James has been playing the part since 2011.
At 17, his acting career is still a short one, but that hasn’t stopped him racking up an impressive number of film roles, too. James has already moved from television to the big screen, taking on a range of different genres, including comedy and science fiction.
His most recent film – The Way Way Back, from writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants) – opened in cinemas last week. In it, James plays, Duncan, the 14-year-old son (again) of Pam (Toni Collette).
His professional acting career began barely seven short years ago, in 2006, when he was cast as Shawn Spencer in the supernatural US TV series, Psych. He clocked up some 60 episodes, from then till 2010, during which time, the movie world beckoned.
Following his film debut, with Mark Helfrich’s Good Luck Chuck (2007), James went on to appear in Things We Lost In The Fire and Fred Claus, both also released in 2007. He then appeared as Noah Curtis in the blockbuster movie of 2012, Roland Emmerich’s 2012.
Next came a single episode of J. J. Abrams’s popular US sci-fi series, Fringe, and then his ongoing role in The Killing.
In The Way Way Back, James plays the central character in a film that boasts a fantastic cast: Toni Collette – who also played the mother in Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and The Black Balloon (2008); Steve Carrell (The Office ), as Pam’s boyfriend, Trent; Sam Rockwell, as Owen (Cowboys & Aliens); Allison Janney (American Beauty), as the outspoken next-door neighbour; AnnaSophia Robb (The Carrie Diaries), as Susanna; and Zoe Levin (Arrested Development), as Trent’s daughter, Steph.
But it’s James’s film. As Duncan, he is an introverted young man who finds it difficult to fit in. However, Rockwell’s character, Owen – the owner of the Water Wizz Water Park – befriends Duncan and the pair’s clandestine relationship helps the young man to open up and find his place in the outside world.
To hear the 17-year-old actor talk about playing the shy teenager, and Robb discussing her “dynamic relationship” with Janney on the film set, see the interview below:
Although the Scotsman is somewhat equivocal – describing the movie thus: “Adult selfishness collides frequently with adolescent disaffection in The Way, Way Back [which] is likeable, and has some moments of truthfulness” – Faxon and Rash’s film has garnered favourable reviews from critics and the general public alike.
Female Firstdescribes it as “one of the best coming of age dramas that we have seen for some time”; and, elsewhere, saying, “Of course, we have seen many coming of age movies over the years but The Way, Way Back is funny and endearing and its heart really is in the right place. Liam James is a young actor to really watch out for as he gives a terrific central performance as Duncan [and] the stand out performance comes courtesy of the fantastically talented and somewhat underrated Sam Rockwell.
In the cinemas now, The Way Way Back, which received its premiere at this year’s Sundance Festival, was released on 5 July.