Ron Cephas Jones, the Emmy Award-winning actor best known for his role as William Hill on the NBC hit show This is Us, has died. He was 66.
A representative for Jones confirmed his death to multiple media outlets on Saturday, attributing it to “a long-standing lung problem” and breaking the news a declaration to people It said, among other things, “Throughout his career, everyone who has been fortunate enough to know him has felt his warmth, beauty, generosity, kindness and heart.”
Jones began acting in college but first rose to prominence in 2016 when he played Hill, the biological father of Randall Pearson, the character of Sterling K. Brown, who was adopted after being abandoned at a fire station as an infant. Hill was a popular recurring character after Randall discovered him as an adult. The emotional arc of father-son reconnection, as well as the redeeming storyline it tells, received critical acclaim from audiences and critics alike, and Jones was nominated for four Emmy Awards for his performance. He won two – in 2018 and 2020.
The stage was Jones’ formative love and he spent much of his acting career in live theatre. In 2022, he won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as a lead actor on Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s show “Clyde’s.” He played the role of Montrellous, a rest stop cook who sees sandwich making as a spiritual endeavor.
This play opened in 2021, a year and a half after Jones underwent a double lung transplant after years of suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. according to a Profile in the New York TimesJones spent almost two months at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in LA. He was on a ventilator and had to learn to breathe, eat and walk again. He said his recovery was inspired by hope of eventually returning to live theater.
“My whole life has been the stage,” Jones said. “The thought of not performing again struck me as worse than death.”
Jones was born on January 18, 1957 in Paterson, New Jersey. He loved jazz and graduated from Ramapo College with a degree in theater. He moved to Los Angeles and ended up driving a bus for four years before traveling around and heading to New York City in 1985. He soon became a fixture at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side. Over the next 30 years he acted on and off Broadway, and had occasional roles in television and film, including Half Nelson with Ryan Gosling and Dolemite is My Name.
In 2015, Jones was cast for the recurring role of Romero on the streaming show Mr. Robot” and 2016 “This is Us” called. Jones’ character Hill dies of stomach cancer near the end of season one (he reappears in the show’s celestial timeline for many more seasons to come). It’s an incredibly emotional episode, and in 2017 he told the Times that after the episode aired about his death, fans just wanted to give him a hug.
“I’ll take her,” Jones told The Times. “I could use every hug I can get.”
Jones is survived by his daughter, Jasmine Cephas Jones.