James-Collier was born in Stockport, Greater Manchester. He went to St Patrick's school in Eccles, Greater Manchester. He has two degrees; he studied business at Huddersfield and marketing at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology
Having no experience as an actor, James-Collier auditioned for the series Down To Earth. Stars Ricky Tomlinson and Denise Welch were convinced by his talent, and he got the part of the womanising pub landlord. In 2006 he appeared in New Street Law and played a small part as Stud in Shameless series 3, episode 5 under the name of Rob Collier.
In 2006 he joined Coronation Street as one of the brothers buying a share of the local underwear factory. He left the show in October 2008. In an interview in early 2008, James-Collier announced he was leaving the soap but was planning to come back in the future.However, in June 2008, it was reported that the character of Liam was set to be 'brutally' killed off in the soap as part of a murder-mystery plotline where three well known residents would fall under suspicion for the crime. One of these would be Tony Gordon played by Gray O'Brien, who was in a relationship with Carla Connor played by Alison King in the show.
Since leaving Coronation Street, James-Collier has had a leading role in Downton Abbey and has appeared in the West End stage version of Calendar Girls.
James-Collier modelled for Argos, where he appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2007 and Spring/Summer 2008 catalogues.
He won the Sexiest Male award at the 2007 and 2008 British Soap Awards in addition to "Best Exit" at the 2009 British Soap Awards. He won Sexiest Male and Best Newcomer at the 2007 Inside Soap Awards.
James-Collier has a son who was born in 2010.
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