R.I.P. Ron Cephas Jones, multiple Emmy winner for This Is Us

Jones played William "Shakespeare" Hill, biological father of Sterling K. Brown's character Randall, throughout the NBC series' run

R.I.P. Ron Cephas Jones, multiple Emmy winner for This Is Us
Ron Cephas Jones Photo: Dia Dipasupil

Ron Cephas Jones has died. A veteran actor best known to television audiences for his role as William “Shakespeare” Hill on This Is Us, Jones won two Emmys for his part as the biological father of Sterling K. Brown’s Randall Pearson on the NBC drama. A prolific stage actor, Jones was also a regular fixture at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater and The Public Theater in New York. According to Variety, he died this week “due to a long-standing pulmonary issue.” Jones was 66.

Born in New Jersey in the ’50s, Jones came up in the New York theater scene of the 1980s, before scoring his first film and TV roles—small parts in the likes of NYPD Blue and Law Order, and Spike Lee’s He Got Game—in the 1990s. Throughout the years, he remained a major presence in the theater, adding numerous Shakespearean productions to his resumé, and co-starring on Broadway with James Franco and Chris O’Dowd in a 2014 production of Of Mice And Men.

This Is Us 6×17 – William’s Speech to Rebecca

In 2016, Jones scored what would ultimately be one of the biggest roles of his career, playing William Hill on This Is Us. Although only on the show’s main cast for its first season, Jones appeared throughout the show’s run—including giving a speech that could be seen as at least partly a thesis for the entire series in its heart-rending penultimate episode. Jones won Outstanding Guest Star In A Drama Series Emmys twice for the part—with the 2020 win arriving alongside one for his daughter, Hamilton co-star Jasmine Cephas Jones, for the Quibi series #freerayshawn.

Having caught a national audience, after years of being a regular part of the New York cultural scene, Jones appeared in TV and film throughout the 2010s and 2020s, lending his talents to Marvel’s Luke Cage, Mr. Robot, Stephen King adaptation Lisey’s Story, Better Things, Law And Order: Organized Crime, Dolemite Is My Name, and many more. While talking about his Emmy nominations in 2020, Jones expressed his joy and gratitude at seeing a lifetime of work receive recognition from his peers. “It’s a testament to the work, man,” he told Gold Derby. “I was saying to myself, ‘My work is resonating.’ People are noticing. And that’s something I waited a long time for, man. Winning is a byproduct of the work.” Among other things, Jones expressed his joy at being offered more chances to work with his peers—including in his final screen credit, the AppleTV+ series Truth Be Told, which paired him with Octavia Spencer.

A representative for Jones issued a statement to People today, writing,

Beloved and award-winning actor Ron Cephas Jones has passed away at the age of 66 due to a long-standing pulmonary issue. Throughout the course of his career, his warmth, beauty, generosity, kindness and heart were felt by anyone who had the good fortune of knowing him,” the statement continued. “He began his career at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and his love for the stage was present throughout his entire career, including his recent Tony nominated and Drama Desk Award winning performance for his role in Clyde’s on Broadway. Ron’s inner-beauty and soul was evident to the huge audience from his multi-Emmy award winning performance on This is Us. He is survived by his daughter Jasmine Cephas Jones.

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