Jasmine Cephas Jones on Hamilton, Winning an Emmy, and Her New Show

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz; Courtesy of Lauren Desberg

In the entertainment industry, it’s not unusual for the children of beloved artists to be compared to their predecessors. For the actress and singer Jasmine Cephas Jones, there’s no denying that she has stepped into her own light. Since bursting into the spotlight in 2015 for her debut theater performance in Hamilton as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds, she’s had over 18 other roles, won an Emmy, released her own music, and gotten engaged to Hamilton co-star and In The Heights lead Anthony Ramos. Basically, she’s been out here keeping busy, and she isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Jones’s most recent project, Blindspotting, was adapted from a movie into a television series by Starz, and the first episode premieres today.  

The adaptation follows Ashley, the character played by Cephas Jones, as she deals with the incarceration of her partner, Miles, played by the former film lead Rafael Casal. The series continues the plotline with all the same characters, but unlike the film, it puts the women front and center, exploring their lives and how they’re impacted by the world around them. It’s rare to see a series that highlights the emotional, psychological, and financial toll of mass incarceration without centering the narrative on those in prison—much less one that combines drama, comedy, dance, and spoken-word poetry in every episode. But with Cephas Jones, and Ashley, in the center of the story, this nuanced perspective feels natural. It’s as if both women’s work, their lives, and their plight are meant to be visualized. Once you see them, you won’t be able to look away. 

After speaking with Cephas Jones about everything from why Blindspotting is an important series to working with stylist Jason Rembert and how she’s evolved as an artist since Hamilton, it’s hard to deny that she deserves every bit of her moment in the limelight. Watch out, world—this bright star is about to illuminate your screen.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Lauren Desberg

What inspired you to want to become a performer? 

I grew up around a lot of creatives and in the theater world because of my dad and my mother. (My father is an actor, and my mother is a jazz singer.) So I was constantly around creative energy and ended up attending performing art schools in New York, and that’s where I got the bug for performing. I went to college for local performance and then went to acting school. It all just naturally happened because of my environment. 

Can you remember the first play or film that moved you? 

I remember watching Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis in the LAByrinth Theater Company. It was the first time I saw actors and people of color come together as artists to create meaningful art, which inspired me. 

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

You’ve starred in a ton of great shows, films, and plays—what projects were your favorites to work on? 

They’re all my favorites in their own way. With Blindspotting, the television show is one of my favorites because I could dive into a character and create a great arc. I was able to be with the character and go through so many different emotions and colors in a way that I’ve never been able to do before. And to have creative control over a project, which I haven’t be able to do before (besides with my music), was liberating and inspiring.

Starz has adapted the 2018 film Blindspotting into a series. How did you react when you first got the call to be a part of the series? 

I mean, it was amazing. I was blown away and was happy to be a part of a show that my friends made. I just knew it was going to be super creative and one of a kind. I’ve never seen a show like this on television before. I was, and still am, really over the moon about it. 

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Your Hamilton co-star Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal wrote and produced the film and the new series—what was it like to work with them again on this project? 

It’s always great; it’s like a family affair. It’s a blessing to work with people you trust and are creatively comfortable around, that you can share ideas with and be listened to. They’re also so talented. I’m a huge fan of my friends. Honestly, it’s a dream. We have this hashtag called #dreamswithfriends, and it is really like that to work with them.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

What elements of Ashley’s story do you think still needed to be told? How do you think she’s evolved since the film? 

She’s found her voice in the show. Honestly, we just get to know more about her in this series. In the film, we didn’t know a lot about Ashley. She went through these very intense moments on-screen, but I don’t think people understood who she was as an individual and a woman. But in the television series, viewers get a look into so much more of who she is and find out way more about her. You see how strong she is and what she’d do to hold her family together after it’s been separated by the incarceration system and how she fights for her son.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

It’s estimated that over 5 million children in the United States have separated households due to mass incarceration. Since the ’80s, incarceration rates in California alone have increased by 225%. Why do you think it’s crucial that viewers see Ashley dealing with the ramifications of Miles being arrested? 

It’s vital to show how mass incarceration impacts families. This series sheds light on how the impact bleeds out into the communities, families, friends, and loved ones. Incarceration is not just a one-noted thing. It’s a very traumatic experience that affects many people, not just the people in prison. So it’s crucial through the show to see how multiple women within the series are impacted by Miles being in prison.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

I also love that you get to see the love that Ashley and Miles have for each other on-screen as an audience. It’s essential to see how they will do anything to make it work and that you do not see a love story being broken by the system. You’re able to see the constant struggles they have to go through together, but they make it out. It’s vital to show that love can survive this system because there are families that do that. So the series does give a little bit of hope to the situation.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

We recently marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. As an artist and proponent of equality, do you feel that the entertainment industry has evolved over the last year?  How do you think stories can be told about marginalized communities without becoming exploitive of their trauma? 

I don’t know the exact answer to that, but I feel like the more stories we can tell, the better. It’s crucial to put not only people in front of the camera but also behind the camera. We need more producers. We need more writers, directors. We need more people of color driving the ship. I feel like we are seeing more stories, and there is a difference, but I also don’t believe in exploiting the trauma, either. And one of the things that I love about our series Blindspotting is that we are talking about these traumatic events, but it is a comedy. People laugh their way through trauma. That is a real-life thing. We didn’t want to make it so heavy, and there’s a balance there. It’s not all trauma. There are happy moments and fun moments and funny moments.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

With this series and other great work coming out of Hollywood, I feel like we are starting to see change, but we still have a long way to go. But we do need a balance so we don’t exploit the trauma of what we’re going through. We have to remember the past so that we can go forward and tell stories of what we want to see in the future and the possibilities. We need both stories: We need the happy ones, and we the ones that remind us of the past so that we can remember it and continue to move forward and not repeat history in the wrong way. That’s the only way forward.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

The beautiful thing about this series is that it combines spoken-word moments, comedy, drama, and music. Is there one medium you prefer most for storytelling?

I love them all—they’re beautiful and unique in their own right. I love that all of these creative mediums are mixed into one pot, and each of them has its own separate moments within the series. They elevate the show in a way I’ve never seen before, so I think equally they all do their part in contributing to the show’s story arc. 

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

What do you think viewers can take away from this show? 

If they have a blind spot to any of the issues we’re talking about, I hope that it opens up their view, and I hope that it can start a conversation at the table if they’ve never had the conversation before.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Lauren Desberg

In addition to acting, you’re an incredible singer. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your newest single, Wild Thing

That was one of the first songs I wrote while I was in L.A., and I was going to a lot of these parties where you ask people how they’re doing, and they look into your eyes like they just don’t care, kind of like this fake glaze over their eyes, and it was just what I was feeling at the moment. That’s what the song is about and the whole EP. 

I wrote it when I was going through a blue moment in my life and was writing from a really honest place, and from that, I’ve gotten fantastic feedback from people saying, “Listening to your songs has helped me through the day or through a hard time in my life,” and it really brings me joy that I can talk about some of the feelings I had and that I was going through and help people through their feelings as well.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

@jazzy_joness

This last year has been arduous for many. What did you use to sustain yourself during the height of the pandemic? Did you have a self-care routine? 

I feel like it changes all the time. I try to get out and go for a walk every day. I try to have a moment of silence for myself every day, whatever that means. I’ve really gotten into a skincare routine—of me washing my face every night and day and really just trying to take care of my skin and just love on myself as much as possible. Finding the joy in pampering myself and making that the thing because you’re running around all the time, and sometimes, you forget to just take care of yourself and do the little things that make you happy and have nothing to do with work. So I just try to make a conscious effort to do that.

What’s your skincare routine? 

It’s just washing my face, putting on toner, and I’m really into serums right now. I love the vitamin C serum from Drunk Elephant. I’ve been trying different masks as well each week. Really, it’s just about taking time and finding joy in my skincare routine. 

Do you have any hero haircare products? 

There’s this one product I love, Brigeo’s frizz moisturizer. I also use their shampoo and conditioner; that’s what I used while filming all of Blindspotting. I’m just obsessed with this company.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

You also switched up your hair texture quite a bit within the series, which was great to see. Do you feel like there was a particular beauty moment within the show where you were like, “Oh, this is Ashley and me combined”? 

Well, I cut my hair into bangs. And we were like, "What should we do?" We just decided to wear my hair all-natural and just rock the bangs. And I think Ashley’s bangs are what I was going through at that time with my hair, and we just really used it, and we just had her walk around a lot with this big, curly hair. That’s kind of my signature hairstyle, and that’s the moment I felt most myself or how I would do my hair outside of performing as Ashley.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Starz

Is your personal style is similar to Ashley’s on-screen costumes? 

During quarantine, absolutely. Ashley’s a very around-the-way girl, is kind of tomboyish, and is very natural with what she wears—and very opposite of Trish, who is very done up all the time throughout the series. During quarantine, sweatpants have been my go-to, and I’ve been enjoying it, and when I put on a pair of jeans, I’m like, “This doesn’t feel right.”

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

@jazzy_joness

Speaking of style, what is it like working with Jason Rembert as your stylist? 

He’s terrific. He’s opened my eyes to the fashion industry. I’m just slowly learning about new styles, trends, and designers. It’s been really fun. We’ve done a couple of looks together so far for my press tour, and it’s been fun to dress up and play around and see what works. 

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

@jazzy_joness
 

Once you can attend more events IRL and red carpets, will you adopt a more maximalist approach to dressing? Or do you feel as you reemerge you’ll continue to keep a minimalist approach to your style? 

I think I’ll try to embrace the joy of getting back into the real world and having fun playing dress-up. I’m excited to see what I and my stylist, my hair, and my makeup team come up with because we haven’t been able to do this for so long.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Last year, you made history during award season, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series in #FreeRayshawn alongside your father, who won an Emmy for his performance in This Is Us. What did that moment mean to you both?

It was very special because my dad has taught me a lot and has introduced me to the acting world. My dad and I have worked really hard in our careers, and we both really love what we do and are very passionate artists, so it’s a full-circle moment to be noticed. Years ago, he would take me into the theater. I would sit in the lighting booth doing my homework, and [from] people from the costume department [watching] me while he was onstage to us both breaking a record of being the first father and daughter to win an Emmy in the same year, it’s pretty crazy and super special.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage

Of course, we have to talk about Hamilton. What did playing Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in the original Broadway musical production mean to you? How, as an artist, do you feel you’ve evolved since then? 

When I booked the job, I was 25 years old, and it was my first big, major moment. That started my career headstrong. I think I’m a different artist since then. I’ve grown and learned so much. It’s really important for me to do pieces that I care about and am inspired to do, and I’ve learned that just from doing the show Hamilton and how I saw the impact on people and how much the show inspired people of all different colors and ages. I took something from that, which is important to me to continue within my career. 

Is that the mark of if you’ve done something successfully—if it moves the audience? 

I think so. That’s a big thing. Also, doing what makes me happy is necessary, including being inspired by a project and getting excited about it. But it is a major plus when it also can move people and inspire them.

Hamilton actress, Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her new Starz television show, Blindspotting

Photo:

Courtesy of Lauren Desberg

Speaking of future projects, is there anything you’re working on in the coming months you’re ecstatic about? 

I’m going to be working on my album this summer, and I just did a short film with Hebru Brantley, who is an amazing visual artist. He partnered with the Jim Henson Company, and we made something very special in the past few weeks, so I’m very excited about that. 

You’ve made it so far in your career, but if you were going to tell your younger self something, what would you say? 

Keep going. Keep believing in yourself because you know yourself more than other people do, and stick to your gut because it will be worth it in the end.

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