Picky With Her Roles, Jasmine Cephas Jones Returns to the Stage With Cyrano

Interview   Picky With Her Roles, Jasmine Cephas Jones Returns to the Stage With Cyrano
 
The Hamilton original cast member has high standards when it comes to her work—but the Off-Broadway musical version of the classic drama met them all.
Nehal Joshi, Scott Stangland, Peter Dinklage, and Jasmine Cephas Jones in <i>Cyrano</i>
Nehal Joshi, Scott Stangland, Peter Dinklage, and Jasmine Cephas Jones in Cyrano Monique Carboni

Type “and Peggy” into Google and chances are you’ll come across Jasmine Cephas Jones, the stage and screen star who, in 2015, became a household name as the youngest of the three Schuyler sisters in the Tony Award-winning Hamilton. Since departing the show in 2016, Jones has starred in a number of film and television projects (including the critically acclaimed Blindspotting), debuted a fashion collaboration, and prepared to release an EP of her own music.

It wasn’t until book writer Erica Schmidt asked her to do a chemistry read for the role of Roxanne in the New Group's Off-Broadway Cyrano—Schmidt’s musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, with new music by members of the Grammy-winning band The National—that Jones considered returning to the stage. “I hadn’t done a play since Hamilton,” says Jones. “After you come from something like that [you ask yourself], what is the thing that’s going to bring you back to the theatre that seems special, and organic, and like it’s the right role for you?”

So Jones joined Schmidt, who also directs the production, and Emmy-winning Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage (who had already been cast in the title role) for the read. The chemistry test was so successful that Schmidt cast Jones almost instantaneously. But Jones says it’s been far from smooth sailing since her career-launching Broadway debut. “I’m still a woman of color in this business,” says the actor, “and there are times when you still have to walk through extra doors and have extra things to prove.” And yet she refuses to take just any role, building her career on an overarching mission: to play women who inspire.

It’s no wonder then that Jones was drawn to Roxanne, the beautiful and determined apple of the lovelorn Cyrano’s eye. “She’s fierce, she takes risks, and she 100 percent believes in love and will do anything for it—she’ll fight for it,” say Jones. “It’s inspiring to play a woman who stands up for herself. She wants more, and she’s got high expectations.”

The part is not only a historically meaty role, but one that remains relatable to women today—another reason Jones was drawn to the character. “Every day, more and more, we’re speaking up for what we believe in,” says Jones. “Right now we’ve opened a platform to do that and won’t take no for an answer—that is Roxanne.”

Cyrano, which began previews in October, officially opens November 7 and continues performances at the Daryl Roth Theatre, and Jones couldn’t have asked for a better return to the theatre. “You hope to be a part of something that makes you a better artist when you leave,” says the actor, “and this is definitely one of those projects.”

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