James Christopher Bolam, MBE (born 16th June 1935) is an English actor and singer, best known for his roles as Jack Ford in When the Boat Comes In, Trevor Chaplin in The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Terry Collier in The Likely Lads and its sequel Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, Roy Figgis in Only When I Laugh and Jack Halford in New Tricks.
James Bolam was born in Sunderland. After attending Bede Grammar School, Sunderland, James attended Bemrose School in Derby. He was formally trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, and first appeared on screens in the early 1960s, initially in popular TV shows such as Z-Cars and the gritty northern films A Kind of Loving and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. He appeared along with John Thaw in the 1967 Granada TV serial, Inheritance.
The Likely Lads made James a star during its 1964 to 1966 run. James himself adapted the shows for BBC radio soon afterwards, and then went on to appear in films such as O Lucky Man!, Otley and Half a Sixpence before the "Lads" returned, in colour, in 1973. Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? ran for two series, in 1973 and 1974. These were repeated in late 1974, and a new episode, a 45-minute Christmas special, was broadcast on Christmas Eve that year.
In 1975 James appeared alongside the original cast in a further BBC Radio series adapted from the 1973 TV series and in 1976 there was a further reunion in a feature film spin-off from the series, simply entitled The Likely Lads.
In 1976, James made a return to straight drama as Jack Ford in the BBC Television series When the Boat Comes In, which ran until 1981. Since then he has gone on to appearing in shows such as Only When I Laugh (as Roy Figgis), The Beiderbecke Affair (as Trevor Chaplin), The Beiderbecke Tapes, Andy Capp (in the title role), The Beiderbecke Connection, Second Thoughts (as Bill MacGregor), Midsomer Murders, Pay and Display, Dalziel and Pascoe, Born and Bred (as Dr. Arthur Gilder), and New Tricks (as Jack Halford).
In 1978 he played Willie Garvin in a BBC World Service radio adaptation of the Modesty Blaise book Last Day in Limbo. In 1982 he provided the voice for The Tod in the animated film version of The Plague Dogs, and in the year 2000, he played Sir Archibald Flint in the Doctor Who audio play The Spectre of Lanyon Moor.
In 2002 he also played the notorious serial killer Harold Shipman, in Shipman, the ITV adaptation of Brian Masters' book on the case, Prescription for Murder. He portrayed Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister, in the 2006 BBC documentary The Plot Against Harold Wilson.
He appeared in Frank Loesser's musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the Chichester Festival Theatre during the 2005 summer season. He is currently playing Grandpa in the Cbeebies show "Grandpa In My Pocket".
In 2009 he played Ken Lewis, CEO of the Bank of America, in the television dramatisation The Last Days of Lehman Brothers.
His appearances on the London stage include Ben Elton´s play, Gasping.
James was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours.