For Jones, who shares most of his screen time with Brown, William’s final scene in the hospital bed was the most meaningful for two main reasons. “No. 1, you don’t want the character to die, but No. 2, playing the emotion [of the moment] with Sterling,” he shares. “By the time we got to that episode, Sterling and I were so connected, it was like a symbiosis. We didn’t even have to talk to each other a lot about any of the scenes. We just got there and we just knew what we were feeling and where we wanted to go.”
Jones acknowledges the frequent challenges that come with doing a death scene right, and was relieved when the execution matched what he felt the day of filming. “It was gratifying that they got it, because you’re doing it and you’re imagining it in your head, but you’re not imagining that they’re able to capture what you’re feeling,” he admits of his initial trepidation. “Then, you watch and you go, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’”
Though viewers have come to associate the Paterson, New Jersey, native with the character of William, prior to This Is Us, Jones cut his teeth starring in notable stage plays (Broadway’s Of Mice and Men, Public Theater’s Richard III), films (Half Nelson) and TV dramas (Mr. Robot, Luke Cage, The Get Down). Ask Jones, whose first screen credits came in his late 30s, to reflect on the significance of an Emmy decades into his professional career and he expresses his appreciation for creator Dan Fogelman’s knack for recognizing an actor’s actor.
“It’s rewarding to get to this point and to be able to get this kind of role based on my work right from the audition, where the director and the writer know that this is the guy they want because he’s capturing the role exactly like they wrote it without any other questions -- Is he Hollywood? Do we know his name? There was none of that. None of us in the cast had to deal with that.