Heidi James was born and raised in Austin, Texas. At seven years old she was acting, singing and dancing in her family's traveling roadshow. She performed regionally until she landed a lead role in a national mini-series and moved to Los Angeles where she attended The Academy of Dramatic Arts. Marion Dougherty cast Heidi in the film Falling Down, working in a scene opposite Robert Duval. She was then introduced to Tim Robbins' Actors Gang where she originated the role of hard-rock singer Ricky Roy.