Ron Cephas Jones earned his second consecutive Emmy nomination for his heartfelt performance as William, Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) biological father, in “This Is Us.” While he was nominated for Best Drama Supporting Actor for Season 1, this time around he is in the Drama Guest Actor category due to only appearing briefly throughout the show’s second season. William died in the Season 1 episode “Memphis,” so in Season 2 he only appeared in occasional flashbacks and via voiceovers.
Jones’ episode submission is the Season 2 premiere, “A Father’s Advice,” in which we hear William reading one of his poems about love, which serves as narration for the opening and closing of the episode. Jones also has one scene in the middle of the episode, a flashback to William speaking with Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) on a park bench about Randall and his own gratitude that they took him in.
Will Jones give “This Is Us” its second winner in a row in this category after Gerald McRaney prevailed last year? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
There is so much love for William on “This Is Us,” and Jones’ tender performance was a huge part of the show’s success in Season 1. Despite playing a recurring character, Jones was able to earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination based on the strength of his performance, especially in the tear-jerking episode “Memphis.” While William is dead in the present, “This Is Us”’ flashback-driven structure allows Jones to continue playing the character into Season 2 and beyond.
His one scene of screen time in the episode is a quiet, powerful one, as a sickly William explains to Beth how Randall has inherited his “bullheaded” traits. His gratitude, as he also gives thanks to Beth for allowing him to stay with the family, is so pure-hearted that you cannot help but well up. As for Jones’ narration opening and closing the episode, while he does not appear onscreen, the profundity of his words as he imparts advice about love onto his son has such gravitas that you can still feel his presence, even if you cannot see him.
Jones will have to overcome vote-splitting with co-star McRaney, who also happens to be last year’s winner. On top of that, Jones’ William and McRaney’s Dr. K largely serve the same purpose on “This Is Us” as older father figures passing on their worldly wisdom to the Pearson family. Since Emmy voters went for McRaney last year, what’s to stop them from picking him again this year?
If Emmy voters are dutifully watching these guest submissions, Jones will struggle to overcome his scant screen time. His scene on the park bench is only a minute and a half, and while the scene is bittersweet and touching, it is so short that it may be hard for voters to justify picking him. Having said that, we are living in a world where Margo Martindale has two Emmys for the same amount of minimal screen time on “The Americans,” so anything is possible. There’s also Ben Mendelsohn, who loomed large over Season 1 of “Bloodline” yet did not win an Emmy, but then won for significantly less screen time for Season 2, which some have interpreted as a “make-up win” for Season 1. Jones could very well be in the same situation.
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