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Ron Cephas-Jones dead: Emmy-winning This Is Us star dies aged 66

Ron Cephas-Jones, the This Is Us star with two Emmy wins and a Tony nomination to his name, has died aged 66.

A veteran stage actor, Cephas-Jones was best known for playing the father of Sterling K Brown’s character in NBC’s critically acclaimed family drama.

On Saturday (19 August), Cephas-Jones’s manager Dan Spilo announced in an emailed statement that the actor had died “due to a long-standing pulmonary issue”.

“Throughout the course of his career, his warmth, beauty, generosity, kindness and heart were felt by anyone who had the good fortune of knowing him,” Spilo said.

Cephas-Jones – who is the father of original Broadway Hamilton cast member Jasmine Cephas-Jones – had a double lung transplant in 2020 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Following the surgery, he spent nearly two months in a Los Angeles hospital.

Born in New Jersey in 1957, Jones graduated from Ramapo College, where he had intended to study jazz but switched to theatre during his sophomore year.

In the mid-Eighties, he moved to New York, where his career got a jump-start when he began hanging out and collaborating at the Nuyorican Poets Café, a vital creative hub for poetry, hip-hop and the performing arts.

Presenting with John Lithgow at the 2021 Tony Awards

(Getty Images for Tony Awards Pro)

A breakout role came in 1994, when he landed the lead in playwright Cheryl West’s drama, Holiday Heart.

Cephas Jones would spend the ensuing decades constantly in the theatre, often in off-Broadway plays in New York. These included a title turn as Shakespeare’s Richard III at The Public Theater, and in roles with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

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To many, however, he was best known for playing William “Shakespeare” Hill on This Is Us, NBC’s drama which follows different families at different points in their lives.

Cephas-Jones’s character was a father whose life is renewed through his relationship with the family of his son Randall Pearson, played by Brown.

Brown was one of the first people to comment on Cephas-Jones’s death. In an Instagram post, he wrote: “One of the most wonderful people the world has ever seen is no longer with us. The world is a little less bright. Brother, you are loved. And you will be missed.”

Writing on Twitter, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman remembered the 66-year-old as “the best of the best – on screen, on stage, and in real life”.

“My God: what an actor,” he wrote. “I don’t think I ever changed a single take of his in a cut because everything he did was perfect.”

Jones played a more central role in the show’s early seasons, but appeared in some form in all six seasons of the show.

The role earnt him four consecutive Primetime Emmy Award nominations, which he won twice for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2018 and 2020.

His 2020 win was particularly historic, as during the same show, his daughter Jasmine won her own Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category. In doing so, they became the first father-daughter duo to win Emmy Awards in the same year.

Ron, pictured with his actor daughter Jasmine Cephas-Jones in 2021

(AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking following his 2020 win, Cephas-Jones said: “As a parent that’s the most fulfilling that I could ever feel at the moment.

“Winning another Emmy is the icing on the cake, but to see my daughter progress and move into this place where she’s earned an Emmy is beyond words. I tear up every time I think about it, to be honest with you.”

As well as This Is Us, Jones had TV guest stints on Mr Robot, Luke Cage and Lisey’s Story. His film appearances included 2006’s Half Nelson with Ryan Gosling and 2019’s Dolemite Is My Name with Eddie Murphy.

He is survived by his daughter, Jasmine.

Additional reporting by Associated Press. Ron Cephas-Jones dead: Emmy-winning This Is Us star dies aged 66

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