James Gilbert was born in Ingramport, Nova Scotia. He went to King's-Edgehill School in Canada and is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland. After playing smaller roles in various TV productions, Gilbert took on the role of William Brereton in the second season of The Tudors. In 2010, he starred as Everett Manette in the suspense thriller The Corridor, which was filmed in Nova Scotia. The next year, Gilbert portrayed Steelkilt in the TV miniseries Moby Dick, alongside William Hurt, Ethan Hawke, and Eddie Marsan. Throughout his career, he appeared in several other TV series, such as Nikita, Rookie Blue, Flashpoint, The Border, Degrassi: The Next Generation, and My Daughter's Secret. His film credits include American Soldiers, Saw VI, and The Cry of the Owl with Julia Stiles and Paddy Considine.