James Scully isn’t the kind of person who wakes up in a bad mood. Although it’s early and he’s just gotten out of bed when he picks up the phone to speak to me, he’s already in good spirits, laughing charismatically in between sips of coffee. Throughout our conversation Scully strikes me as someone who is both insightful and honest, whether we’re discussing his cycling playlist – having been an instructor for over three years, he believes in the power of an eclectic mix – or LGBTQ+ representation in TV and film. ”We’re still seeing a lot of television where queer characters are written and cast by straight people he muses, “and bless their hearts, though I’m sure they have the best of intentions, they’re not always able to speak to an accurate experience … ”
The You actor on imposter syndrome and finding his stride.
Scully, who grew up in San Antonio, describes his childhood in the suburbs as “idyllic.” “My elementary school was across the street, and my middle school was just behind that,” he recalls. When I ask if the performing arts high school he attended was anything like that in Fame, he laughs and tells me that, in a sense, it was. “In my second year in the program we got a building just for us, and then it really was all-singing, all-dancing. But it was very nice. Up until that point I’d been the weird, awkward kid with a lot of energy, ideas and feelings, with no good outlet to put that stuff into. When I started acting and performing I began feeling way more settled as a human.”
Though he thought he would go into theatre after university, Scully caught his big break on our screens last year with the second season of Netflix’s You. Playing the problematic, yet loveable aspiring screenwriter and LA douchebag Forty Quinn, it was his own insecurities that helped him find common ground with the character. “I think a lot of artists are worried inside that they’re not as good at what they’re doing as they think they are,” he explains, “and that they’re an imposition on the people around them.”
“I struggled feeling a lot of imposter syndrome, worrying that I didn’t have anything to offer,” he ponders, reflecting on the past few years, noting that playing Forty in You, and the wild success of the show, have made him feel much more empowered as an actor. Scully is taking this newfound self-belief in his stride, which shines through when I ask what’s next for him and he asserts: “Whatever my next job is, it’s going to be the first time that I step into a role thinking, ‘This is mine’.”