Tika Sumpter and Nicholas James's Relationship Timeline

From covert lovers to soon-to-be newlyweds.

Nicholas James and Tika Sumpter pose together on the red carpet

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These days, Tika Sumpter and Nicholas James regularly gush over one another on social media, in interviews, you name it—but the couple wasn’t always so open. For the first two years of their relationship, the pair kept their love tightly under wraps to the world at large—even as Sumpter became pregnant with their first child in 2016.

The couple fell in love while playing Candace Young and Justin Lewis on season three of Tyler Perry's 2013 series The Haves and the Have Nots. By 2017, however, the two were engaged and couldn't keep their love concealed anymore. Read on to relive their journey from kissing costars to proud parents.

  • Tika Sumpter and Nicholas James met on the set of the show The Haves and the Have Nots
  • The couple kept their relationship secret for two years
  • They share one daughter, Ella-Loren, together.
  • They are set to tie the knot in May 2022 after a four-year engagement

2015: Meeting on Set

If Sumpter and James’s first glimpse of each other on the set of The Haves and the Have Nots wasn’t love at first sight, there was definitely instant attraction—at least on Sumpter’s part. "I remember seeing him and thinking, 'OK, he’s cute,'" the Southside With You star revealed to Rolling Out in July 2021.

It took James a while to pick up on her interest, however, despite her best efforts. "We saw each other a few more times and I realized, OK, it’s more than just cute, I kinda like him," Sumpter revealed. "I tried flirting and giving him signals but he just didn’t get it."

Eventually, she said she had to take a more direct approach. "Finally one of his friends had to tell him, 'Yo, she likes you!'" she recalled. "He was clueless and to be honest I was running out of ways to show him."

2015: The Couple Is Outed at Work

Once James picked up on what his future bride was throwing down, their love affair progressed quickly—at least behind closed doors. "We tried to hide it at first at least until we knew what it was," Sumpter told Rolling Out. "We’d steal kisses between scenes and sneak into each other’s dressing rooms, etc."

The couple’s costar and Sumpter’s on-screen brother, Tyler Lepley, was the first to figure out their romance. "Nick had just left my dressing room and he had my makeup on his nose. So [Tyler] called him out," Sumpter told the outlet. "He said, 'Yeah, that’s not your makeup on your face, who have you been kissing?' It was obvious because my makeup is brown and his is not. So after that we pretty much were public."

August 2016: Baby on Board

Actress Tika Sumpter appears on Amazon's Style Code Live

Cindy Ord / Stringer / Getty Images

In August 2016, Sumpter, who had mostly managed to keep her relationship a secret from the prying eyes of the paparazzi, surprised her fans with glimpses of a growing baby bump. She addressed her pregnancy head-on on August 12, sharing a photo with singer John Legend and writing via Instagram, "Preggers and promoting with John Legend. Happy and proud."

October 2016: A New Addition

E! News confirmed that the former Best Friend’s Date host and her mystery love had welcomed a daughter named Ella-Loren at the beginning of October. Sumpter gave fans the first glimpse of the baby girl several weeks later with a heartwarming snap that showed off the newborn's little feet. "Love at first sight," she wrote at the time.

January 20, 2017: Going to the Chapel

By January 2017, Sumpter still hadn’t publicly revealed the identity of her child’s father, but she did let the world in on the fact that he had asked for her hand in marriage. "I see a ring here. Are we getting engaged?" The Real host Loni Love asked the actress during an appearance on the show. "Yeah, I’m engaged!" Sumpter replied.

The actress also dished the details about her man’s Christmas Day proposal. While Sumpter had an idea that James might pop the question, he managed to throw her off just enough to keep it a surprise. "He did all these amazing things, I went on a little hunt, in the house, for different things, and I thought, 'Oh, he’s gonna propose,' but it was a Peloton bike he bought me," she shared. "And then he had a letter behind Ella, he’s like, 'Ella has something to say to you,' and it was just like, this letter, of beauty, and he proposed and ... it was just simple and thought-out."

April 9, 2017: Three’s Company

By April, the Prom Night star seemingly couldn’t hold his love for his daughter and wife-to-be in any longer. He posted a photo to Instagram showing the family's hands entwined together, writing simply, "All in @tikasumpter."

June 18, 2017: The Big Reveal

Two months later, Sumpter was also ready to let the cat out of the social media bag, sharing a lengthy and heartfelt post celebrating her daughter’s father—and revealing his identity to the world. "Ella's such a lucky girl. @nickjames138 you are an amazing father," she captioned a photo of the actor holding up their baby on Instagram. "I could not have asked for a funnier, more present and loving partner. Thanks daddy for sending me a good one."

June 20, 2017: Soulmates

James had some sweet words of his own for his love just days later with a sweet tribute post he crafted for her birthday. "Happy Birthday to my best friend, my soul mate, my partner in crime, the person who always dresses like me by accident, my fiancé ... soon to be wife, my life partner, my lover," James gushed. "@tikasumpter im so proud of you for all of your accomplishments, your drive, your charisma, your beautiful heart, and most importantly the mother you have become to our beautiful child," he concluded. "Here's to a lifetime of love and happiness!"

October 28, 2018: World Debut

Nicholas James and Tika Sumpter walk the purple carpet

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The couple made their first public appearance as a couple while walking the purple carpet at the 2018 premiere of Nobody’s Fool in New York City.

June 20, 2019: A Life-Changing Love

James had some touching words to share for Sumpter’s 39th birthday, for which he spilled his heart on social media. "My entire world turned upside down when I met this woman," he confessed. "She’s loving, she’s charismatic, she’s a total boss, she’s wise, she’s the most incredible mother to our child, she’s taught me so much and we’ve grown so close." He continued, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the woman of my dreams. You look more gorgeous than ever. I’m so lucky to be with you and watch you grow. Xoxo @tikasumpter."

October 5, 2019: Date Night

Tika Sumpter shines in a sequin gown while holding Nicholas James's hand.

Prince Williams/Getty Images

Mom and dad stepped out on the town on October 5, 2019, for the grand opening gala of Tyler Perry Studios, holding hands as they strolled the carpet in their best evening wear.

December 1, 2019: Growing Closer

Sumpter revealed just how close she and James had become while wishing him a happy birthday on Instagram in December 2019. "Nicholas you truly are the best," she began. "My best friend and biggest cheerleader. I feel safe around you in every way. Thank you for truly being the epitome of love. Even when things aren’t going great w us you make sure we heal the rupture as fast as possible." She ended the post by noting that she and Ella were the "two luckiest girls in the world."

January 25, 2020: Family Matters

The James/Sumpter family with Sonic the Hedgehog

Rachel Murray/Getty Images

The trio made their family debut on the carpet in January 2020 for a Sonic the Hedgehog family day event in Hollywood, California.

July 13, 2020: Trials and Tribulations

The twosome’s relationship was put to the test during quarantine, but as Sumpter shared in July, she and James are in it for the long haul. "Quarantine has tried and tested us to the max," she shared along with a series of photos of the pair looking happy on a beach. "I still choose you. 'Till the wheels fall off. Love you @nickjames138."

James also shared photos from their day in the sun, in which Sumpter’s ring could be seen front and center. "This person right here is my #rideordie! I’ll go anywhere with you! I wouldn’t want to be quarantined with anyone but you!" he wrote. "You’ve taught me so much about myself, my flaws, my heart, your life, your experiences, our differences, your views and have opened my eyes in ways I would’ve never seen! I love you more than your will ever know! I love you @tikasumpter #cheerstous #justbecause"

 December 1, 2020: Waxing Poetic

The Queens native called her future spouse "one of the best humans" she’d ever met while celebrating him on his birthday in 2020. "You are simply the best. Thee freakin’ best. Thank you for loving Ella and I exactly how we need to be loved," she raved via Instagram. "You are a salt of the Earth human. I wish the world could have multiples of you and your kindness and heart. Enjoy this beautiful day."

February 10, 2021: Pressing Play

In February 2021, Sumpter spoke to Essence about picking up the couple’s wedding plans back where they left off post-quarantine. "I’m ready now," she shared. "Literally, once this pandemic is over I want to have a party. I’m like, 'Yo, we all deserve a party.' You know what I mean? Like, we deserve a party. I’m more about just, family’s getting older, some family members passed away from COVID complications, so more than ever now, it’s about just getting family and friends—that, to me, is life."

February 14, 2021: Forever Valentine

The Mixed-Ish star kept things simple and sweet with her tribute to her love on Valentine’s Day 2021, writing only, "Forever Valentine" on a photo of herself hugging her fiancé from behind.

June 20, 2021: Bringing Out the Best

James revealed that his fiancée had changed him for the better in an Instagam post celebrating her birth in June 2021. "This woman! Makes my heart flutter! She’s taught me so much about myself, about my faith, and yes ... she’s tamed my ego!" he captioned a shot of the gorgeous Sumpter sitting in the grass with the couple’s daughter on her lap.

He went on to say that Sumpter was the "most loyal person I have ever met. Thee most determined person I’ve ever met. She has the biggest heart. (Guarded by a thousand knights 😆) but once you get past those guards woooo😍😍."

The actor continued: "She’s the most caring mother. And man does she love our daughter! Ella, you’re a lucky one cuz mom would go to the ends of the earth to make you happy!"

March 23, 2022: Swept Off Her Feet

The Gossip Girl alum shared an adorable photo of her husband-to-be bending her back in a swoon-worthy stance while raving about his attributes. "Y’all have no idea the amount of love, patience, kindness, care and understanding this guy has shown me," she wrote, adding, "So grateful for you. Grateful for therapy. Grateful that you’re my person. @nickjames138."

April 8, 2022: Looking Ahead

Four years after becoming betrothed, Sumpter gave The Real hosts an update on her marriage plans. "We’re getting married next month," she gushed. "I’m so excited! We’ve been together for seven years, and we kind of did everything backwards, we had a baby, we bought a house, all the things, and now we’re like, 'OK, we’re ready!'"

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