Stephan James' star has been rising in Hollywood for a while now: in the past year alone, he starred in the critically-acclaimed movie, "If Beale Street Could Talk" and co-starred with Julia Roberts in the Amazon TV series, "Homecoming."
But when he accepted his Canadian Screen Award on Sunday night, the Toronto actor made it clear that his success is rooted in his Canadian upbringing.
"When I think about the Radius award, an award given to honour a Canadian's contribution to the world stage, I can't help but to trace that journey right back here," he said. "More specifically, to my hometown, Scarborough."
He spoke lovingly about the east-end Toronto area, and said his upbringing there gave him an outlook he still values.
"It is a place that has afforded me the perspective that has been invaluable as I continue to navigate through my career," he said. "It is a place that has taught me about pain, love, hardship and perseverance. A place where we allowed our imaginations to run wild as children, where a night like this was all just a dream. And for this I am truly grateful."
He also thanked his mom, Carmelita, who was watching from the audience, for the sacrifices she made. "You're my biggest fan and my biggest inspiration," he said. "I love you."
The speech was made all the more touching by the fact that the award was presented to James by his brother, Shamier Anderson, who also shouted out both their mom and their hometown.
"These two mama's boys from Scarborough sure have come a long way," Anderson said, before introducing a montage of his brother's work and then presenting him with the award.
James has made headlines in the past year for his star turns in "Beale Street" and "Homecoming," but he's been working for a long time. He notably played civil rights icon John Lewis in "Selma" and groundbreaking athlete Jesse Owens in "Race." He actually played alongside his brother in that one: Anderson played Owens' rival, the amazingly named Eulace Peacock.
And for his part, Anderson is working a lot too. He's the lead in the CSA-winning supernatural TV show "Wynonna Earp," and has appeared in TV shows like "Dear White People" and "Trailer Park Boys" as well as the Nicole Kidman movie "Destroyer."
The brothers have also worked together on the annual B.L.A.C.K. Ball, a Toronto-focused arts initiative, which Anderson name-checked in his introduction. And mom and brothers attended this year's Golden Globes together, too.
The commitment to supporting black communities was clear in James' speech, which he ended by talking to young people who might feel inspired by his success.
"I want to dedicate this award to young black boys and girls across this country. Perhaps you're watching this now," he said.
"I want to tell you that your craziest dreams, your wildest imaginations are all possible. No matter where you are, no matter where you come from. Scarborough to the world!"
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