“Starbucks has always been very supportive of me”: An exclusive conversation with James Martin, the Oscar-winning Starbucks partner 

When James Martin first donned his green Starbucks apron in Belfast back in 2010, he could have never imagined that 13 years later he’d be the very first Green Apron Partner to win an Oscar. “Being the first person with Downs Syndrome to win an Oscar was a great feeling,” he adds. “It made history, and more importantly, it showed others with a variety of disabilities that it was possible. That really means something to them.”

After showing a keen interest in acting, James joined a local drama group in 2007 and appeared in a number of theatre shows before being cast in his first film, Ups and Downs in 2019. “I’ve always enjoyed my job at Starbucks and just carried on as normal until the filming for An Irish Goodbye started. When that ended, I went back to Starbucks and picked up where I left off.” 

Set in rural Northern Ireland, the short 2022 film follows James’ character, Lorcan, as he reconnects with his estranged brother Turlough after the untimely passing of their mother. He landed the role after one of the directors, Ross White, heard James on the radio with his dad, broadcaster Ivan. “Ross saw me in Marcella with Anna Friel in 2021 and then he approached me about the film,” James says. “The rest, as they say, is history.” The film went on to pick up the BAFTA Award for Best Short Film and the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film a year later in 2023. 

“My Starbucks partners couldn’t believe we were nominated at first, they were over the moon for me! They gave me a big send off from both the Castle Lane and Victoria Square stores and ended up on TV and in the newspapers,” James says.  

But what was it like jetting off to the other side of the world for the biggest night in Hollywood? “It was a great experience. It’s the most important night of the year for the movie industry. It was also lovely that my mum, Suzanne, and my uncle, Damian, were there with me. We couldn’t believe it when it was announced that we’d won.” 

Although the night was unforgettable for obvious reasons, it was also special for James for another – it was his 31st birthday. So, during the team’s acceptance speech, Tom Berkley took a moment to encourage the crowd of A-listers – which included Janelle Monae, Florence Pugh and Barry Keoghan – to sing him happy birthday. “It was totally unexpected. A birthday treat like that was a lovely moment, and to have Colin Farrell give me a thumbs up is a very special memory!” 

After celebrating in style, James returned to Belfast and is now busy working on other films. “I have another film coming out this year, Fairview Park, and there are three other projects being talked about,” he says. “I have never said that I wouldn’t come back to Starbucks, but at present I am just too busy and they understand that. They have always been very supportive of me and I appreciate that.”  

His message to anyone considering joining Starbucks? “Go for it! I have always enjoyed my job and I’m sure you will too. My favourite part is the interaction with the customers. I always enjoyed being a part of a team because I was always treated the same as everyone else. The big thing is that all Starbucks partners – no matter their role – are treated equally.’  

From all of us at Starbucks, James – we are so proud of your journey, and we wish you all the best for the future! 

thumbnail for Starbucks files UK and EMEA accounts for the fiscal year ended October 2023

Starbucks files UK and EMEA accounts for the fiscal year ended October 2023