Jasmine Cephas Jones Says Her ‘Blindspotting’ Character Is a “Warrior and a Hero”
It’s not often that a small role in a movie leads to a starring role in a spinoff. Jasmine Cephas Jones was involved from the early stages of the movie Blindspotting, which co-writers and stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal developed for some 10 years before the movie premiered at Sundance and was released by Lionsgate in 2018.
This hilarious comedy is a love letter to the Bay Area about two best friends who have to navigate gentrification and police brutality, as well as a shifting sense if belonging. Cephas Jones, who co-starred with Diggs in the original Broadway company of Hamilton, plays Ashley, the strong-willed girlfriend of Casal’s Miles. Jones says, “I had a few pivotal scene that were very intense.” She filmed for a couple of days and figured her Blindspotting era was over.
Then, Diggs and Casal called Ashley to ask her to lead a TV series. It would be set after the events in the film and re-centered around Ashley’s point. Cephas Jones was hired as a producer by Diggs and Casal. She also serves as showrunner.
” “It’s one of the most beautiful, creatively fulfilling experiences that I’ve ever had,” Cephas says about the Starz half-hour comedy. It has been renewed for a second series. The series begins when Miles is in prison on a petty drugs charge. Ashley is forced to live with Miles’ mom, Helen Hunt, and Jaylen Barron, his half-sister.
Blindspotting expands on the film’s theatrical style, including interludes when Ashley addresses the camera directly in verse, revealing what Cephas Jones calls her character’s most truthful self. She says that the propulsive monologues push her as an artist each time. Cephas Jones, a theater-trained actor, approaches them as Shakespeare would.
“She is a warrior and hero,” Cephas says about Ashley, who is also the mother to a young boy. “She represents a lot women who feel they have to do it all themselves,” Cephas Jones says of Ashley, who is also a mother to a young son. The story tackles difficult social issues like colorism and misogyny as well as abuses that are endemic in the prison system and sexwork.
” My favorite thing about art and this series is how we can not only interpret very important subjects, but also entertain and make it fun,” Cephas Jones said. “You want to see the whole thing, then you can go on with your life. This is why I do it .”
Cephas Jones was a London-born child. She was raised in Brooklyn by career role models. Her mother, Kim Lesley is a jazz singer and her father, This is Us actor Ron Cephas Jones. She and her dad made history when both were awarded Primetime Emmys in 2020, Ron for the NBC drama, Jasmine for her role on the shortform Quibi series #Freerayshawn. She says, “It was such an amazing moment to share this with my dad, who’s been hugely mentor in my life.” It felt like we were peers. Look at the road we’ve traveled together. “
Ashley’s journey continues with the second season of Blindspotting, which recently wrapped principal production in Oakland and L.A. “We take it to another level,” Cephas Jones says of the heightened storytelling on the way. “The craziness has definitely increased. You will be entertained, that’s for sure .”
She wants to continue playing multifaceted characters that she can get her teeth into, and who are more than secondary characters in men’s stories. She says, “Showing all the colors a woman can be” is important to her. “We are not just a prop for a man’s arm. We are human beings in this world with many sides .”
This story first appeared in a June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.