Justina James is Reaching for the Stars

Diane W Kelly
14 Min Read
Photo Credits: Chelsea V Photography

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Justina James has always known what she has wanted to do. Captivated by the Cinematic Universe, she moved to Los Angeles as a teen to pursue her dream of making a difference in the entertainment industry. Now, she is living her dream while trying to help others and have a positive impact on the world. I was lucky to be able to interview this unique, young talent about how she got into acting and her plans for 2024.

What drew you into acting? 

What drew me into acting is a very complex story. As a young child, when I was around five years old, my mother and I lived with my two aunts. She would have to go to school and work to be able to support me throughout my childhood. Due to this I was left with my aunts to raise me. They weren’t all that attentive. I found solace in sitting in front of my small TV, captivated by fictional stories, performed by renowned actors. The Marvel Cinematic Universe was truly my first biggest inspiration that has fueled my passion and drive to make something of myself in the industry. The wonderful cast and crew who made these stories come to life made me as a young child feel not so alone in such a big world. Being able to feel every emotion ranging from joy, gratitude, love, and amazement. It has made me cry tears of laughter, and even sadness from being able to envision myself in the shoes of certain characters. It taught me about morality, the difference between right and wrong. How to be a good person, the best version of myself I can be. From a young age it’s shaped my mind to become who I am today. Ever since that moment in time I knew I wanted to do what those actors all had done for me. At such a young age after discovering my true passion, I promptly went for it. Like most, I started off with school and community theater. Once I turned fourteen, I moved from Memphis, Tennessee to California to start chasing my dreams. Immediately jumping into the industry, I found a good team of agents to represent me! After all these years, my goals still remain the same, I want to be able to make a positive impact on people all around the world, to be that inspiration. And most importantly to let everyone know, anything is possible, to chase your dreams to the fullest. As an Asian American female, I always wished that we had more representation in the film industry. I want to be a part of the change to move forward and continue diversifying the industry. Making a positive impact is my life goal. Being able to be that outlet that serves as an escape from reality into your favorite fictional stories. I strive to be open and my most fully authentic self. I am a huge people person! I not only got into this industry to chase my passions, but to also help people in my own way as well through the big screen. 

What is your process for breaking down a character?

My process for breaking down a character varies depending on the certain project and role. Generally, I find it essential for me to understand the whole story primarily. I familiarize myself with the script, maybe even go back through and read it more than once. It’s important to examine the script carefully; to be conscious of subtext in the script that isn’t said out loud in dialogue. This also connects to understanding a character’s motivation. What’s their end goal? What are they trying to reach? What drives them? Once all of these questions are answered, it’s easier to gain insightful details of the character’s traits. Their values, personality, it leads to how the character’s arc will progress throughout the story. This builds the foundation of my understanding. Subsequently, I’ll move on to breaking down scenes. This includes evaluating their interactions and tone with others, how they present themselves, and certain actions and words they tend to use. I enjoy fully immersing myself in my character. Seeing it as just another character is not something I do, making sure I put myself in their shoes, and their headspace is what I believe makes a captivating performance. One of my past acting coaches, David Tom, Daytime Emmy Award winner. Engraved into my mind that I am the character, their whole being is me. I am not acting, instead using my own real emotions to perform. It is one of the lessons I’ll always remember and continue to use to make my performances as realistic as possible to be able to drive that emotion to the audience.

What do you look for in a film role?

A good challenge is what I look for. I strive to play characters that are complex and written like how real humans are. In the past I have been type cast, it has been one of my biggest struggles. I do enjoy playing a bubbly, fashionable teen girl, don’t get me wrong! It can be lots of fun always on set! However, I want to be able to show my range and play characters that show the actuality of humanity at large. Instead of only having one emotion and expression of happiness and smiles. Then again, I’m not opposed to any role. Lately I have been drawn to the characters that do portray more darkness with complex origin stories that show why the character turned into the way they are. Good examples of this would be characters like Trilla Suduri in “Star Wars”, it would definitely be a dream to portray a live action version of her. Or in similarity to Coriolanus Snow in “The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” I’m confident I’d be able to capture characters like these well, because of my ability to connect my real-life experiences to the characters. It makes me able to feel the anger, confusion, and hardships they’ve experienced. It without a doubt makes it effortless to make tears fall and for me to portray the subtext not spoken but shown by expression and hidden tone. 

Tell us about your favorite cosplay.

My all-time favorite cosplay without a doubt has to be my Sidney Prescott one from “Scream 1996” For this shoot I drove up to San Francisco to Stu Macher’s house with my photographer and best friend, Benjamin Farren who helped introduce me to the community of cosplayers and content creators! We were so lucky the owners of the house allowed us to do a shoot there and tour the house where they filmed. This amazing experience allowed me to get movie accurate recreations of certain scenes. Being a huge Scream fan with the opportunity to bring my vision to life and be the character for a day was an unforgettable experience! 

Photo Credits: Chelsea V Photography

What is your advice for keeping a healthy work/life balance?

Personally, I love keeping my schedule busy. My determination and drive to reach my goals are what keeps me motivated. Though, burnout is a common thing actors run into. I’ve dealt with it myself. Which is why I make sure to prioritize my needs first. Being a content creator as well as an actress who attends school leaves me very little time to destress. The truth is I am still finding ways to find the perfect balance. There’s always going to be changes in my schedule that I have to adapt to. That’s the way of the world. Feeling the need to put my audience and work first has been a big struggle. The quick realization dawned over me that I need to be at my best in order to give a compelling performance and to keep producing content to keep others entertained. I am a performer, but I am also a human being. We all need time to ourselves at some point. I make sure to plan my schedule accordingly, the weekends are my rest days where I choose to either focus on dedicating time to my personal hobbies or hanging out with friends! At night before bed, I usually write and read to put my mind at ease and get a good night’s rest. Some of my pleasures for destressing include nature walks, reading, journaling, yoga, and just simply taking a small break from being on my phone! To give 100% you have to be fully at 100% in your state of mind. This is a motto I make sure to keep in mind. 

Tell us something people would be surprised to learn about you.

People aren’t aware that I have a background in musical theater. Recently, I’ve been inspired to go back into music! My daily routine consists of me dedicating practice time for the guitar for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Writing my own songs is also something I have been working on as well, I have a whole journal filled with my originals that I plan on recording and releasing in the near future. Fun fact: being from Memphis, Tennessee, Justin Timberlake and Elvis Presley were my musical inspirations growing up. I enjoy making covers of genres ranging from: country folk, pop, pop punk, and indie!

What are your goals for 2024?

My goals for 2024 are to continue reaching for the stars! I would love to book a film or television show, it’s my ultimate goal. Other than that, I am focused on strengthening my skills as an actor! I’m dedicated to meeting new people in the industry and making lots of new friends that I can call family. I believe all of us creatives hold a special bond with each other because of the respect and knowledge we share for one another’s craft! In the content creating aspect, I wish to make more connections with movie studios such as: Lionsgate, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures, Paramount, and Disney Studios to help promote their new projects with my platform specializing in cosplay content. 

Any upcoming projects you can share?

Words cannot explain how thankful and all around grateful I am in general for being able to be a part of this industry. It’s truly a dream come true. Being able to keep busy with all of my auditions and callbacks is something that always fuels me. The hope I keep in my heart, knowing that we get a lot of no’s and maybe’s but then we finally get that one project that we do book, and all the hard work pays off. I would love to go more into detail about projects I am a part of, unfortunately NDA’s prevent that. Make sure to stay tuned on my socials for their release! I have a great deal of projects myself I am planning for my Instagram.

Where can we follow you on social media?

You can find me on Instagram @TheJustinaJames

My TikTok is @ItsJustinaJames

I also plan on kick starting my YouTube channel soon which will include: Vlogs, Movie Reviews, Music Covers, and Behind The Scenes content!

You’ll be able to find me @JustinaJamess

Photo Credit: Justina James

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