Ron Cephas Jones on ‘This Is Us’: “This gig is probably the best I’ve ever had in film and television”

Actor Ron Cephas Jones

“That was the biggest challenge, dealing with the emotion and not making it too melodramatic—letting the real emotion out, and trusting your partner that they’re going to care for it.” – Ron Cephas Jones

On This Is Us, actor Ron Cephas Jones plays the difficult role of a father trying to reconnect with a son that he abandoned. His emotional performances have earned him an Emmy Award nomination. In an interview with Deadline, Jones speaks about trusting the writers and using that material to elevate his performances — and how difficult it is to balance the emotion of the performances.

Jones believes that the foundation of the character came from the writing, and his performance helped strengthen the material. He says, “I trusted that Dan [Fogelman] was going to take that character in a direction that was going to be layered, and deeper than what’s on the surface of it. I also knew that as an actor, I could bring something that was deeper and layered, and I think it worked both ways. When they saw that, they realized they could also be deeper and have more layers, because I understood how to carry those layers, and where they came from. There are nuances in the character of William that are directly pulled from my life, and my life experience. They’re very subtle and small little moments—detail-y things that happen—but there was room for that, so I didn’t have to worry about that. It wasn’t a cliché role, right from the beginning. You might think it would be, but it turned out that it was fuller than I could even imagine.”

Because of the opportunity to explore a character over a season, Jones has a deep fondness for his role on This Is Us — though he hopes more great opportunities will follow. He says, “This gig is probably the best I’ve ever had in film and television, and I’m starting at a very high bar. So, where do you go from here, as far as television is concerned? I don’t know if it gets any better than this. I’m just enjoying it and staying in the now, and trying not to think too far ahead of myself.”

Of course, This Is Us is known for its emotionally-fueled drama. Jones admits that as an actor it’s not easy to balance the emotions. He reveals:

That was the biggest challenge, dealing with the emotion and not making it too melodramatic—letting the real emotion out, and trusting your partner that they’re going to care for it.

When you see it in the eyes, then you can let it happen. You know what it is—you read the script, you know what the lines are, and you also know what the emotion is. The emotion’s there, so you don’t have to act it. What you have to do is just let it out, and that’s what we, as humans, don’t do.

We spend more time covering up: “I don’t want to talk about it. I’m fine. I’m okay.” “How you doing?” “Oh, I’m okay.” But really, there’s stuff going on, so you open up and you let it out. Then the other actor, when you have that trust, you know that they’re going to care for it, and it just happens.

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