James was born and raised in New York City. His uncle was James Wall, who played Mr. Baxter on the children's television series Captain Kangaroo. He graduated from Power Memorial Academy in 1969, then attended C.W. Post College as an Arts and Film major. Upon graduating, he became involved in stage work and TV commercials. James started his film career off as a stuntman for such New York based film productions as The Wiz, The Warriors, and The Wanderers.
James was also close friends with actor Michael Dudikoff (the two met while shooting American Ninja) and director William Friedkin, who described him as "One of the most nicest, toughest and professional actors I've ever worked with."
His daughter is Israeli-American super model Debbie James. She currently resides in Beverly Hills, California.
On December 18, 1993, James died of pancreatic cancer in Burbank, California, at age 41. His last role was in the pilot for the TV series M.A.N.T.I.S.. The pilot first aired on Fox just a few weeks after his death. He was also scheduled to star as Jax Briggs in 1995's Mortal Kombat until his death. Eulogies at James' funeral service were delivered by Sidney Poitier and director-writer S.C. Dacy. He was buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Movies Bloodfist V: Human Target (1994) .... Marcus/Drew Washington Weekend at Bernie's II (1993) .... Henry The Player (1992) .... Himself McBain (1991) .... Eastland Mister Johnson (1990) .... Aliu Street Hunter (1990) .... Logan Blade American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989) .... Curtis Jackson I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) .... Kung Fu Joe Hero and the Terror (1988) .... Robinson Johnny Be Good (1988) .... Coach Sanders American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987) .... Curtis Jackson Hollywood Shuffle (1987) (as Steve W. James) .... Hood #3 Avenging Force (1986) .... Larry Richards Behind Enemy Lines / P.O.W. the Escape (1986) .... Johnston The Delta Force (1986) .... Bobby To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) .... Jeff Rice American Ninja (1985) .... Curtis Jackson Weird Science (1985) (uncredited) .... Guy at Table Mask (1985) .... Hospital Intern Fatal Vision (1984) (TV) .... U.S. Marshal The Brother from Another Planet (1984) .... Odell Vigilante / Street Gang (1983) (as Steve W. James) .... Ptl. Gibbons The Soldier (1982) .... Soldier's Force member #2 Times Square (1980) (as Steve W. James) .... Dude The Exterminator (1980) .... Michael Jefferson Enter the Game of Death (1980) .... Black Martial Artist The Mouse and the Woman (1980) .... Union Man The Warriors (1979) .... Baseball Fury Bruce vs. Black Dragon (1977) The Land That Time Forgot (1975) .... First Sto-Lu The Education of Sonny Carson (1974) (uncredited)
Television M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994) (pilot) .... Antoine Pike Hammer, Slammer, & Slade (1990) (pilot) .... Kung Fu Joe Riverbend (1990) .... Major Samuel Quentin Pee-wee's Playhouse (1989) TV Episode .... Derek C.A.T. Squad: Python Wolf (1988) .... Bud Raines C.A.T. Squad (1986) .... Bud Raines Moonlighting; episode "Symphony in Knocked Flat" (1986) .... Mohammed "Boogaloo" Brown The Atlanta Child Murders (1985) (mini-series) .... Policeman #1 Muggable Mary, Street Cop (1982) .... Park Slasher-Rapist Arthur Hailey's Hotel; episode "Love and Honor" (1985) .... Kaz All My Children (1970) .... Guard Pinkston (1984) The Dukes of Hazzard; episode "Danger on the Hazzard Express" (1984) .... Carney T.J. Hooker; episode "Night Vigil" (1984).... Coach Cassius Isley
Stunts The Brother from Another Planet (1984) (stunt coordinator) Hanky Panky (1982) (stunts) Fighting Back (1982) (stunts) Ragtime (1981) (stunts) Wolfen (1981) (stunts) Fort Apache the Bronx (1981) (stunts) (uncredited) The Exterminator (1980) (fight consultant) He Knows You're Alone (1980) (stunts) Dressed to Kill (1980) (stunts) The Wanderers (1979) (stunts) Oliver's Story (1978) (stunts) The Wiz (1978) (stunts) (uncredited) The Education of Sonny Carson (1974) (stunts) I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) (actor-Kung Fu Joe) (stunts) (well known for Mr. Squeaky)
Writer Street Hunter (1990)
Channel tom collins