An American filmmaker, playwright, and fiction writer, he is best known for novels such as Mesmerized (2010) and Swimming to Chicago (2011). His nearly fifty stage plays include Somebody's Baby (2004) and Pensacola (2011), and his screenwriting and directing credits include Frozen Stars (2003) and Ambrosia (2014).
He attended DePaul University, where he studied dramatic writing, and Columbia College, Chicago, where he took courses in fiction writing. He also performed in numerous professional theatrical productions on both the east and west coasts.
He attended high school with model Rebecca Romijn.
His father, Samuel Barnes, Jr., was a police officer, and his mother, Nancy Nickle, was a hip-hop record producer. He grew up in California with one brother and three half-brothers.
Actress Judy Greer studied with him at DePaul University.