Robert James-Collier was born in Great Manchester, England, and grew up in Salford. He studied business at Huddersfield and marketing at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Originally, he did not set out to become an actor. Instead, James-Collier worked several manual labor jobs and was also a part-time model. But, after filling in for an absentee actor at a friend's film shoot, James-Collier started taking acting classes during his off-hours from work. His onscreen debut was a featured role in the 2005 made-for-TV comedy-drama "Perfect Day," followed by an appearance on the BBC romantic comedy series "Down to Earth," where he played the part of a womanizing bar owner. James-Collier guest starred on a number of hit shows like "Casualty" (BBC, 1986-) and "The Royal" (ITV, 2003-2011), before becoming a series regular on ITV's popular soap opera "Coronation Street," as a loveable rogue who was also a ladies' man - a characterization he easily - some thought too easily - essayed for U.K. viewers.After two years on "Coronation Street," James-Collier left the show, reportedly to avoid being typecast. He continued to work steadily on British television, before landing his breakthrough role on director Julian Fellowes' series "Downton Abbey," a period drama about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. James-Collier's Thomas Barrow was a villainous footman-turned-valet initially written as a one-season character. But as the series, and the actor's fanbase grew in popularity and earned glowing reviews, plans to kill off his character were eventually nixed. Thanks to his onscreen chemistry with his counterpart maid Sarah O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran), his Thomas Barrow was clearly a complex character audiences loved to hate. Not only was Thomas bound to a life of servitude, but he also struggled with being a gay man in Edwardian England. Early on in the series, James-Collier's character showed plenty of distaste for his station in life and hatched several plans to discredit the other servants. But after failing many times to elevate his position within the household, Thomas begins to ease up, showing a lighter side during later seasons.By Candy Cuenco
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