Jasmine Cephas Jones Interview: ‘#FREERAYSHAWN’
“I’ve been very lucky to be a part of amazing projects that reflect our times, but also inspire people to make the world a better place,” says Jasmine Cephas Jones. The actress originated the role of Peggy in the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton,” which has currently found millions of new audience members thanks to Disney+. Cephas Jones also just broke through with TV audiences thanks to her captivating role in “#FREERAYSHAWN” on Quibi. Her performance earned the actress her first Emmy nomination, for bEST Short Form Actress. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“She really is a superhero,” states Jones of her character Tyisha. When Tyisha’s husband Rayshawn (Stephan James) is hunted by the police, she has to keep her young son safe as officers attempt to force their way into the couple’s home. The actress goes on to describe her character as a “Jill of all trades” based on how she faces the extreme situation. Despite the chaos, confusion, and fear surrounding her family, she has “to put on this mask” of confidence so as not to scare her son. The pressure cooker type situation required the performer to constantly summon raw emotion. “You want to make sure that you’re bringing the humanity and the realness and the truthfulness to the characters,” explains Jones.
Rayshawn shares his encounter with the police on social media because he feels as though it is the only chance he has a black man to tell his side of the story. In a heartbreaking moment, Tyisha views his social media feed and watches the horrors she is suffering in real time being shown to the masses. Jones unleashes a wave of pain and tears as Tyisha crumbles apart emotionally.
“I feel like a piece of us are all going through that,” admits Jones. The real world police killings that have plagued the nation make her afraid “every time I open my phone, I’m going to see someone get murdered… It’s something I understand because I’ve seen it so much. It’s a story that I’m just not so far away from.” So displaying Tyisha’s pain was not a great emotional leap, the actress merely had to present herself with a very real “what if” scenario.
Jones’ Emmy nomination for “#FREERAYSHAWN” is made sweeter because she got to share the joys of the moment with her father Ron Cephas Jones. He is an Emmy-winning actor, nominated again this year for his role on “This is Us.” The actress describes how her dad introduced acting to her at a young age when he performed with the acclaimed LAByrinth Theater Company, of which she would also become a member. “I was that kid doing my math homework in the lighting booth,” she remembers. “He taught me that the theatre was my sanctuary.” So the fact that both father and daughter are nominated at the Emmys makes for a special “full circle” moment.