At the age of 58, after a tough climb, James is finally on top.
He is best known for his highly successful TNT crime drama, "The Closer," about a unit of the Los Angeles Police Department that handles high-profile murder cases. Started in 2005, "The Closer" became one of the highest rated American TV cable dramas.
But to achieve all that he has, James had to overcome numerous challenges. Among James' challenges, he is gay and at the age of 17, ran away from home. Determined to become an actor, he met his mentor, G.W. Bailey, who taught acting classes at Texas Tech University where James was a student.
Bailey convinced James to follow his passion to become an actor and first in Dallas and then in New York, James gave it everything he had.
But auditions led to very little acting work and very little income as James struggled.
However, because of a lack of acting work, James saw there were endless numbers of actors but relatively few writers.
He began writing plays, one of which, "Home Front," about a troubled Vietnam veteran, reached the Broadway stage, a major accomplishment.
It seemed James was on his way to success. But then no more of his plays reached Broadway and to pay his bills, he became a waiter at a New York restaurant, serving many of the people with whom he had worked on Broadway.
It was humiliating and discouraging, and James eventually headed for Hollywood.
There he wrote movies for television, staring such actors as a young Jim Carrey, Kathy Bates and Martin Sheen and it appeared James was again headed for success.
But James decided to risk everything to have a television show of his own.
Most Hollywood shows are sold to television networks from a "pilot," that are costly full production shows; most of which never sell and the investors in the failed pilots lose their money.
But that didn't stop James, even after he had an incredible 18 unsold pilots. He refused to give-up.
Then in 2005, when James was 50 years old, TNT bought the rights to "The Closer," and as its creator and lead writer it seemed he might finally be on his way to success.
"Might" because many TV shows don't attract a large audience and are cancelled.
To make it big requires a minimum five year run, to qualify a TV show for syndication, potentially all over the world. "The Closer," became a very big success, running for seven seasons. At long last, James had made it big.
And to add to his success, "The Closer" was replaced in new show production by its spinoff, "Major Crimes," as James is on his way yet again.
Interestingly, one of the stars of both shows is G.W. Bailey; James' long ago mentor, for James never forgot the man who guided him through the tough times of his youth.