He plays struggling actor Lawrence Nixon, who is the spitting image of convicted diamond thief George McCabe, also played by James.
But he then realises it could work to his advantage, has Lawrence kidnapped and swaps lives with him. It soon becomes clear that they have much more in common than either could ever have dreamed.
He spent part of his childhood growing up in America and returned there in 2000 to co star with Bette Midler in American sitcom Bette. Sadly, the series was axed after one season but James made the most of his time in Los Angeles.
RADA trained James admits filming was complicated. "We tried to do it as Lawrence in the morning and then George in the afternoon, apart from the scenes where I had to act opposite myself. That was a bit of a nightmare.
But I'd like a little variety."
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"They got rather excited because they recognised me as Goody from The Thin Blue Line, which they'd watched the night before in Bombay."
imprisoned gangster is enraged.
Now he's keen to balance his career with more serious roles and stage work. "It just gets a bit repetitive. That's why I've just taken three years out to do theatre The Producers, Donkey's Years and Cabaret. I get to play more serious parts in the theatre and it would be nice to do more of that in television."
"I had an absolutely wonderful time over there and would eventually love to live there, in the sunshine. It was a shame it went down the pan. But I can go back and try again. I rented this very big house and decided I might as well enjoy it while I could. It was very silly, but enormous fun. I was living opposite David Hockney and next to Balthazar Getty, in this little cul de sac up in the Hollywood hills. I had a whale of a year and a half and I'd do it all over again in exactly the same way."The climate makes me happier over there, the attitude makes me happier. It's much more positive. Sometimes it's fake, but I'd rather fake positive than fake negative."
"We used the Bad Girls set for the prison scenes. I think we were the last people to film there before it was knocked down."
There's no smoke without fire in Double Time (ITV1, New Year's Eve, 9pm), when James takes on an acting challenge two roles in the same comedy drama.
James, who also once cooked up a storm in Hell's Kitchen, is used to being recognised in all sorts of places. "It happened on the tube once. This Indian family had flown in and they were on the underground from Heathrow.
For all the latest news from the world of television, check out Ian Wylie's blog,The Life of Wylie.
Having made their arrival in Britain rather special, their favourite TV star then had to explain his part was dubbed for the Indian version. "They said, You don't sound like him at all.' And I said, That's because my Punjabi's not that good!'"
The London born actor has had his fair share of comedy roles, including Tom Farrell in Gimme Gimme Gimme, Pc Kevin Goody in The Thin Blue Line and one series as George Monday in My Hero after the departure of Ardal O'Hanlon.
When Lawrence gets his big acting break starring in a TV reconstruction of McCabe's downfall, the Mens Nike Air Max 2016 White
Double trouble for James
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