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Ron Cephas Jones (‘Clyde’s’) on playing the enlightened Montrellous: ‘It’s about choosing light’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“It was about choosing light and also about having faith and working through fear,” says Ron Cephas Jones of his recent role in “Clyde’s” on Broadway. The Lynn Nottage play cast the veteran actor as Montrellous, an expert sandwich maker who serves as a mentor-like figure to the other kitchen staff at the titular truckstop diner. Jones describes working on the play as a “joy” as he thinks back on “all the little metaphors” for light conquering darkness which he found in the script. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

Jones has known Pulitzer Prize-winner Nottage for about 20 years, and despite many workshops and readings, the timing never worked out to star in a full production until now. “I didn’t really have to read the script to say yes,” admits the actor.

SEE Kara Young video interview: ‘Clyde’s’

Though Jones, like many theatergoers, was initially struck by the ways the tone of “Clyde’s” stood apart from Nottage’s other work. This script examines important social issues, but unlike searing dramas such as “Ruined” or “Sweat”, “Clyde’s isn’t afraid to lean into the comedy. “It wasn’t joke-y funny,” Jones clarifies, but rather the humor emanates from the characters’ behavior. “It was a joy to watch her laugh,” notes the actor, remembering the humor that permeated the rehearsal process. Seeing the playwright dip into comedy was refreshing, but Jones especially appreciates how “at the same time, she would take you slowly into these levels as the play went on, of deeper, darker issues.” He is emphatic in stating that “it’s an incredible piece of writing, how she’s able to touch your emotions as well as stimulate your mind.”

As for his character Montrellous, Jones considers him to be an enlightened being. He entered that headspace after a life-changing experience cooking an artichoke. “Preparing food was like a prayer for him,” explains Jones, “it settled his soul and gave him the opportunity to be able to give.” The actor drew upon his experiences with mentors in his own life whom he considers to be enlightened in order to embody Montrellous. “You go to them for energy and some of that zen-like quality,” he says, which closely resembles how the other members of the kitchen approach Montrellous in the play.

“Clyde’s” was the first time Jones has performed on Broadway in seven years, last appearing in 2014’s “Of Mice and Men.” His two-time Emmy winning turn in “This is Us” kept him busy during those years, but now that the series has aired its final season, we might get to see more of him in New York. “I still have a bucket list,” he exclaims, as he rattles off roles both classic and contemporary that he is dying to explore on stage. The actor, who got his start with the famed LAByrinth Theater Company seems to have theater woven into his DNA. “I’ll always long for the boards,” he admits, “it’s where my roots are.”

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