James was born October 26, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio. He has appeared in more than 80 television shows and films in the past 20 years.
His list of guest starring roles includes recurring characters on Curb Your Enthusiasm, The West Wing, The X-Files, Roseanne, The Practice, Six Feet Under, CSI: Miami, Crossing Jordan, The District, and NYPD Blue.
His starring role on Grey's Anatomy is his first on a major television series. Pickens and his wife, Gina, have two children.