James Frain plays Chess on The Cape.


Frain was born in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and raised in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, the eldest of eight children. He was educated at Newport Free Grammar School, studied English, Film and Drama at the University of East Anglia and trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. While in his final year there he made his film debut in Shadowlands (1993) as a result of being spotted by Richard Attenborough and has had a successful film career on both sides of the Atlantic ever since.

Skilled at accents and capable of playing a large variety of roles, he was nominated for Best Actor at the 1995 Venice Film Festival for his performance as a Northern Irish terrorist in Thaddeus O'Sullivan's controversial Nothing Personal (1995) and for Best Supporting Actor at the Genies in Toronto for his performance in István Szabó's Sunshine (1999).

He has been a regular on the stage in the UK, appearing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court Theatre, as well as on the West End. He has also appeared on Broadway and was a recipient of the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performances along with the rest of the cast of The Homecoming (2007).

He has appeared in a number of television series, such as Armadillo (2001); 24 (2005); Invasion (2006); and The Closer (2006). His more recent roles include Thomas Cromwell in Showtime's The Tudors; the villainous billionaire 'Chess' in the upcoming NBC superhero/crime drama series The Cape; heroic Templar Sir Gregory in the SyFy original movie Dark Relic (2010); and vampire Franklin Mott in the HBO TV series True Blood.


  • Shadowlands (1993) - Peter Whistler
  • Prime Suspect: Series 3 (1993 miniseries) - Jason Baldwin
  • The Buccaneers (1995 miniseries) – Julius Folyat, The Duke of Trevenick
  • Nothing Personal (1995 film) – Kenny
  • Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996) – Prince Felix Yusupov
  • Loch Ness (1996) – Adrian Foote
  • Robinson Crusoe (1997 film) - uncredited role
  • Elizabeth (1998) – Spanish Ambassador Alvaro de la Quadra
  • Hilary and Jackie (1998) – Daniel Barenboim
  • What Rats Won't Do (1998) – Jack Sullivan
  • Titus (1999) – Bassianus
  • Arabian Nights (2000) – Schahzenan / Harun al-Rashid
  • Where the Heart Is (2000) – Forney Hull
  • Reindeer Games (2000) – Nick
  • Armadillo (2001) – Lorimer Black
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) – J.F. Villefort
  • Leonardo (2003) (TV series) – Cesare Borgia
  • Spartacus (TV film) (2004) - David
  • Empire (2005) – Marcus Junius Brutus
  • 24 (2005; TV series) – Paul Raines
  • Into the Blue (2005) – Reyes
  • Invasion (2006; TV series) – Eli Szura
  • The Closer (2006; TV series) - Paul Andrews
  • The Tudors (2007–09; TV series) – Thomas Cromwell
  • Law and Order: Criminal Intent (2008; TV series) (Episode title: "Vanishing Act"; Dean Holiday)
  • Fringe (2008; TV series) (Episode title: "Safe"; Salmon Kohl)
  • In Plain Sight (2009; TV series) (Episode title: "Once a Ponzi Time"; Philip Ashmore/Roy Murray)
  • Grey's Anatomy (2009; TV series) (Episode title: "I Always Feel Like Someone Is Watchin' Me"; Tom)
  • Lie to Me (2009; TV series) (Episode title: "Grievous Bodily Harm"; Lance McClellan)
  • Law & Order: SVU (2009; TV series) (Episode title: "Users"; Martin Gold)
  • Everybody's Fine (film) (2009) - Tom
  • Californication (2009; TV series) (Episode title: "Mia Culpa"; Paul)
  • Tron: Evolution (video game) (2010) - Jarvis
  • Tron: Legacy (film) (2010) - Jarvis
  • True Blood (TV series) (2010) - Franklin Mott
  • The Cape (in production; 2011 TV series) - Peter Fleming/Chess
  • Transit - (2011) - Marek
  • Water for Elephants (2011) - Rosie's Caretaker