Emmy episode analysis: Ron Cephas Jones (‘This Is Us’) says goodbye to William in ‘Memphis’

More than 20 years after he made his television debut in “Law & Order,” Ron Cephas Jones has earned his first Emmy nomination for his performance in the hit NBC series “This is Us.” The veteran actor of both stage and screen has more than 30 film and television credits to his name, but none more memorable than William H. Hill, a terminally ill man who recently reunited with the biological son he abandoned in a fire station at birth. Now, at 60 years old, Jones could take home an Emmy for Best Drama Supporting Actor.

In Jones’ episode submission, “Memphis,” William enjoys his final days by taking a road trip with his son, Randall (Emmy nominee Sterling K. Brown), to the city where he became a rising blues musician. William’s mysterious past is finally explained and viewers at home learn about the life experiences that led him to give up his son when he was just a baby. Meanwhile, Randall makes a connection with family members he never knew he had and forms the bond he always hoped for with his dying father.

Can Jones win his first career Emmy for this episode? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:


“This is Us” spent an entire season pulling at the heartstrings of its loyal viewers, but no episode had fans reaching for the tissues more than “Memphis.” We see Jones portray a character who has learned to embrace his life just before it ends. Whether he is enjoying simple pleasures such as feeling the breeze roll across his face or enduring the pain and suffering of cancer destroying his body, Jones’ commitment to his character is spellbinding. While on his death bed, he delivers a heart-wrenching confession of gratitude to the son he spent 36 years missing. This kind of emotional speech (that had no shortage of tears) screams, “Hand me my Emmy!”

This particular episode is such an acting tour-de-force that it could potentially land three different actors Emmy awards. Besides Jones, Brown has submitted this episode for his Best Drama Actor race and Brian Tyree Henry earned a Best Drama Guest Actor nom for his performance. All three play off each other brilliantly and will likely all benefit from being recognized in separate categories for this must-watch episode.

If voters lead with their hearts when they are checking off their ballots, expect Jones to come away with a victory. In a category filled with cynical, powerful and downright unlikable characters, Jones stands out as the one you want to embrace.

SEE 2017 Emmy nominations list: All the nominees


John Lithgow is the biggest hurdle Jones will have to overcome. The five-time Emmy winner has already won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Crown” and is likely the favorite to win here as well. The mild-mannered demeanor of Jones’ character, William, may not have enough fireworks to pull in some voters, especially when compared to Lithgow’s over-the-top character.

This category is stacked with high-profile actors. Aside from Lithgow in “The Crown,” previous Emmy winners in this race include Michael Kelly in “House of Cards,” Mandy Patinkin in “Homeland” and Jeffrey Wright in “Westworld.” The field is rounded out by the long overdue Jonathan Banks in “Better Call Saul” and David Harbour, who was in the year’s most thrilling series, “Stranger Things.”

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on September 17. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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