November 21, 1956– Cherry Jones is the epitome of the successful stage actor, & yet she is probably most famous for a TV series. In 2008, Jones joined the cast of the Fox series, 24, playing the role of the President Of The United States. For her work, she received the 2009 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Open-faced, honest & fearless, Jones is classically trained & notably versatile as an actor. She has performed in a wide range of stage roles, garnering terrific reviews & winning admiration for her colleagues for her professionalism & skill, & the affection of audiences who adore great acting.
Jones grew up in Paris, Tennessee, which she describes as:
“A wonderful little town… a wonderful mix of tolerant & intolerant people.”
She describes that as a kid she felt like an outsider. When she was 12 years old, she felt alienated from her church because: “they could never embrace me because of my homosexuality.”
Seeing the great Colleen Dewhurst in a production of Eugene O’Neill‘s A Moon For The Misbegotten was the impetus for teenage Jones to want to become a professional actor. Ironically, Jones would go on to play the very same role on Broadway opposite Gabriel Byrne in 2000. She made her Broadway debut as The Angel in Tony Kushner‘s Angels In America (1993), but Jones really grabbed critics & audiences attention in Timberlake Wertenbaker‘s Our Country’s Good (1991), bringing her a Tony Award nomination. She was also nominated for a Tony in 2000 for her performance in that O’Neill play.
After 15 years working steadily treading the boards, Jones became an overnight sensation in a Broadway revival of The Heiress (1995). For that performance, Jones became the first out of the closet lesbian to win a Tony Award. In her acceptance speech, she thanked her partner, architect Mary O’Connor. Jones did not treat the event as a landmark, but rather simply, as if it was the most natural thing to do. Jones called the experience of being the first out lesbian to win a Tony “humbling,” & spoke of the importance of the award:
“It means the world to all of those people in all of those places who can’t be out.”
In 2004, after 18 years together, Jones & O’Connor split. Jones was then in a relationship with actor Sarah Paulson, noted for her work on American Horror Story in all its incarnations. They broke-up in 2009 & are now dating each other’s therapists.
Before Broadway, TV & films, Jones work in regional theatre, including a decade long stint at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. Jones:
“I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life living out of a suitcase, going from regional theater to regional theater. I was a workhorse, but then with The Heiress I became Cinderella at the ball, at 38 years old.”
In 2004, Jones starred in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of John Patrick Shanley‘s nun drama Doubt. The production transferred to Broadway in 2005 & won the Pulitzer Prize. Jones’s intense performance won her a second Tony Award.
I have a handsome, smart friend, who saw Jones in a rapturously reviewed 2013 revival of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie on Broadway, also starring openly gay cutie pie Zachary Quinto. My pal texted me from the theatre afterwards, dizzy with delight at the production & Jones performance.
Jones stars, along with Tom Hiddleston, in the Hank Williams biopic, I Saw The Light, which opens next week.
“I’ve always found that people who have a back-up plan always follow the back-up plan, & those who don’t proceed with what they originally set out to do. I had no back-up plan because I had no other skills. I could do nothing else. I really could do nothing else, so I knew I had to make it as an actress if I was going to feed myself. & all of my friends who could do something else did because they could & they had to. There just comes a point where you have to feed yourself.”
Jones is probably my generation’s greatest American stage actor, but she works in film also. Some of my favorites are: The Cradle Will Rock (1999), Erin Brockovich (2000) & The Perfect Storm (2000).
She rarely plays a gay character, but she costarred with Brooke Shields in the Lifetime Television film What Makes A Family (2001), based on the true story of a lesbian couple & a custody battle. Jones:
“I’m more proud of that than anything I’ve ever done. There’s so much social worth to that little film.”
Jones is an outspoken advocate of Gay Rights. She received GLAAD’s Vito Russo Media Award for her work toward eliminating homophobia.
On getting older:
“As an actor, whether you look good or you don’t, it’s still about what you look like: Whether you are heavy enough to play this part or thin enough to play that part. The fact of the matter is, you can add a little weight with some extra padding, but you can’t shave it off. If you want to have more options as an actor, you just need to watch your weight, & I’ve ignored that fact for several years quite happily. Now the chicks have come home to roost.”
Jones married her girlfriend, fellow actor Sophie Huber, earlier this year. The girls live in NYC.