Here’s what the 39-year-old actor had to share with the mag:
On when he started acting: “I started acting my senior year in high school. I had loved movies since as long as I can remember. Then finally my senior year, I started acting. And I had a girlfriend in the drama program, and she had been asked to do a one-act by this guy. And he had written this one-act and was directing and starring in it. It was this romantic piece, and they were gonna make out in it. And I got really jealous, and I begged her not to do it. But she did it anyway, as she should have. I realize in hindsight that I was jealous probably more because he had constructed this whole thing and he’d written it and directed it and was acting in it—it was, like, all the things that I wanted to do. And so as my revenge, I decided that I would join the drama class. I got the leads in the last two plays that year. Then I hadn’t applied to any drama schools ’cause I was too late, and so I wasn’t in the theater program at UCLA. But I was in L.A., and there was, like, a guy in my dorm that was on the show Cybill, with Cybill Shepherd. It was just all around me, and I was like, ‘Well, I, I need to do this now.’ So I dropped out of school. My parents wouldn’t support me anymore. So I worked at McDonald’s for two or three months. . . .I got a couple dates from the drive-thru window. [Laughter.] Then I got a Pizza Hut commercial, and then not long after that I did Freaks and Geeks. So it all worked out.”
On getting dates at the McDonald’s drive-thru: “I was in acting class, and I would practice different accents in the drive-thru, like really bad accents. But people believed me. So I’d be like [in terrible Italian-American accent] ‘Hey, welcome to McDonald’s. May I help you?’ You know, like, that bad. And I’d always know that they were interested ’cause they’d come back around. So, you know, a young lady would be like, ‘Oh, I forgot the, uh, strawberry milkshake.’She’d come back and she’d be like, ‘Well, I’m trying to learn Italian. Maybe you could give me some Italian lessons.’ I’d go [in accent], ‘Yeah, yeah, sure.’ But then there were a couple, I guess, with my Irish accent or, like, my Brooklyn accent—those I could go out on dates with. You know, we went to see Titanic, and I had to keep it up. You know, so like [in equally bad Brooklyn accent], ‘Whoa, Leonardo. Wow, he was amazing. Yo, oh.’
On how his dates would find out the truth: “Then I always had to break it to ‘em, ’cause they’d call me, and it was before cell phones. So I’d pick up the phone, I didn’t know who it was. And I’d be like [in regular voice], ‘Hello?’ And they’d be like, ‘James, is that you? What happened to your accent?’ It was always the worst, as if I was this huge imposter. Like, I had to come clean: ‘Hey, I’m not from Brooklyn. I’m from Palo Alto.’ And they just look at me like I’m a complete stranger. And it usually ended right there.”
For more from James, visit Wmagazine.com.