James turns up in the ITV1 soap in June as Faye’s son Ryan Lamb, who arrives in the village to stay with his mum after losing his job as a mechanic.
Ryan quickly becomes embroiled in Faye’s plot for revenge against Mark, who is desperate to keep her identity a secret from his family.
James said: “I’m thrilled to be joining a show as respected and well-loved as Emmerdale. It was always on in our house when I was growing up so I’m excited to be a part of it.
“I’m looking forward to playing such an interesting character and one so different from previous roles I’ve played.”
James, who was nominated Most Popular Actor at the National Television Awards in 2007, has also starred in Casualty, Dream Team and Trial and Retribution.
His casting is one of many exciting new signings for Emmerdale.
It was announced last week that Emma Atkins will be reprising her role as Charity Tate, and Jeff Hordley will be returning to the soap shortly as bad boy Cain Dingle.
Gavin Blyth, series producer, said: “This year will spell a new era for Emmerdale and I’m delighted to be welcoming James to the cast as a key component in the new direction the show will be taking.
“James is an extremely talented actor and will bring a real presence to the role of Ryan.”