Beloved NJ actor from ‘This Is Us’ dies
If you were a fan of the NBC show “This Is Us”, there’s some sad news. The actor who played William Hill, Randall Pearson’s biological father, Ron Cephas Jones has passed away. He was 66, and he was a Jersey guy.
The accomplished actor was a Paterson native. He was born on January 8, 1957; the same birthday as Elvis Presley just 22 years later. He was raised there in Paterson and graduated from John F. Kennedy High School.
Then, he attended Ramapo College at first intent on studying jazz. He switched majors to theater after getting the lead in a production of “Cinderella Ever After” in his sophomore year.
Upon graduating, he moved to Los Angeles. In just a period of six years, he spent time driving a bus, falling in love, becoming a father, getting separated and then bouncing around to San Francisco, Nevada, and New Orleans, before settling in New York City.
He also had a heroin problem in those early years, and no doubt would later channel that into his “This Is Us” role. At some point, he began working in earnest on an acting career.
He did a lot of theater and television. In the 90s, he was landing parts in movies like the Sean Penn film, “Sweet and Lowdown”, “He Got Game”, and others.
The role he will always be best known for was that of Randall’s dying, biological father on “This Is Us.”
He portrayed the character with such humanity and vulnerability, he was very quickly beloved by the audience. In the flashback scenes in which the drug-addicted William was left overwhelmed with caring for his own newborn son, your heart broke for him as he agonized over what to do. He ended up abandoning the baby at a fire station.
Ironically, his home state of New Jersey, many years later, would adopt a law for people in such a dire predicament. New Jersey's Safe Haven Infant Protection Act allows a parent to anonymously surrender a newborn baby at any hospital emergency room, police station, fire station, ambulance, first aid, and rescue squads that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week
William’s poignant death in the middle of the road trip with his son, as Randall held his face and talked him through dying, trying to calm him, was one of the most heart-wrenching things you’ll ever see on television. Of course, “This Is Us” always played with the past, present and future, so a lot of makeup was involved.
For the present day, his character William was supposed to be a man in his 70s. You wouldn’t recognize Ron Cephas Jones without his aging makeup, he was only 59 years old when the series began.
The actor won Emmy awards for his portrayal of William on “This Is Us”, and he was nominated for a Tony for his work in "Clyde’s". He had chronic pulmonary disease which eventually caught up with him, causing his death.
Dan Fogelman is the creator of “This Is Us”, and he paid tribute to Jones on social media writing, “A massive loss. Ron was the best of the best - on screen, on stage, and in real life. The coolest.
The easiest hang and laugh. And my God: what an actor. I don’t think I ever changed a single take of his in a cut… because everything he did was perfect.”
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
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