Octavia Spencer Remembers Ron Cephas Jones: ‘He Always Mined for Gold’

Ron Cephas Jones was one of the most skilled actors I’ve ever worked with. To be in a scene him, you had to be present for the emotion that would naturally come.

When we were filming together [on the 2019-2023 Apple TV+ series “Truth Be Told”] Ron would come to work with the pages that we were working on that day with the front and back of every page filled with notes. Every page. And that’s why he was an actor’s actor. Because as actors we have to create all of these realities around every single character we build. They have to have secrets. They have to have memories. And you have to build those memories. You have to daydream your memories. And if he’s playing my father, there were things that we had to have between us.

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And so that’s what we do: We take a million notes on our characters. And the fact that he took the time on a grueling, unrelenting television show schedule to build the memories and to come in with clear choices — it elevated our work in such a way that it never, ever felt like work with Ron. He never knew that I referred to him in my mind as a mailman. He always delivered.

His first day on our set was right after he received his second Emmy nomination [in 2018 for NBC’s “This Is Us.”] He walked in and got this spontaneous ovation from the crew.

When Ron walked on stage, no one ever had to say, “OK ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to work.” He just commanded it. He was such an elder statesman. And he had a million questions and they always led to discovery in a way that was surprising. He would have a different interpretation of something just based on one question that he’d asked. And that would make me make a different choice in the moment, and then he would make a different choice in the moment. We brought different things to each take. And that’s what I appreciated about his craft. He just always mined for gold, and gold came in the form of the truth we needed to know — the characters’ truth. Every single actor who was a series regular on our show wanted scenes with Ron. Every single one.

Ron was so willing to be vulnerable, willing to explore wherever the scene would take us — to a place of anger, or a place of humility or a place of deep love or sorrow. Wherever it took us, he was happy to go.

As a producer, I was really looking for roles that would get him his Oscar.

It’s devastating to think that I’m never going to have another moment where I get to sit down and just enjoy his presence. It’s hard to create the type of chemistry that I had with Ron. He was just the best at what he did.

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer starred in and executive produced the Apple TV+ drama “Truth Be Told.”

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