Longtime Stage Actor Made His Mark on This Is Us

Ron Cephas Jones went back to Broadway after double lung transplant
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 20, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
Ron Cephas Jones' Work on This Is Us 'Was Perfect'
FILE - Ron Cephas Jones arrives at the second night of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Cephas Jones, a veteran stage and screen actor who became best known and won two Emmy Awards for his role as a long-lost father on the NBC drama series...   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Ron Cephas Jones, a veteran stage actor who won two Emmy Awards for his role as a long-lost father who finds redemption on the NBC drama This Is Us, has died. Jones, 66, died "due to a long-standing pulmonary issue," said his manager, Dan Spilo, the AP reports. On the series, Jones played William "Shakespeare" Hill, a biological father whose life is renewed through his relationship with the family of his son Randall Pearson, played by Sterling K. Brown. "One of the most wonderful people the world has ever seen is no longer with us," Brown said in an Instagram post after Jones' death. "The world is a little less bright."

Jones played a more central role in the series' early seasons but appeared in some form in all six seasons, which included time-jumping narratives offering recurring opportunities for its actors even after their characters' deaths. Jones won Emmys for best guest actor in a drama series in 2018 and 2020 and was nominated for two more. "My God: what an actor," This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman posted on X. "I don't think I ever changed a single take of his in a cut because everything he did was perfect." Jones spent most of his career in the theater before and after his work on the series, returning to Broadway even after a double lung transplant in 2020 forced him to learn to breathe and walk again.

"My whole life has been the stage," Jones said in a 2021 interview with the New York Times. "The idea of not performing again seemed worse to me than death." He was nominated for a Tony Award and won a 2022 Drama Desk Award for the Broadway role as a truck stop cook in Lynn Nottage's "Clyde's." A native of Paterson, New Jersey, Jones graduated from nearby Ramapo College, where he had intended to study jazz but switched to theater. He spent the late 1970s and early '80s traveling the country, working as a bus driver in Southern California for several years. Jones then moved to New York, where his breakout role was the lead in Holiday Heart. His film appearances included 2006's Half Nelson with Ryan Gosling and 2019's Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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