Exclusive: Jasmine Cephas Jones Talks Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America & Broadway’s HamiltonPosted by Wilson Morales
August 11, 2015
Coming out this week is Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Mistress America, a new comedy drama starring Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke.
Tracy (Kirke) is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke (Gerwig) – a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town – she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke’s alluringly mad schemes.
Also featured in the film and making her big screen debut is Jasmine Cephas Jones, who plays Nicolette, a fellow classmate of Tracy’s. Nicolette is not too fond that her boyfriend Tony (played by Matthew Shear) is spending too much time with Tracy.
For Cephas Jones, not only is she appearing in theaters with this film, but she’s currently featured in the hottest show on Broadway, “Hamilton.” As the daughter of actor Ron Cephas Jones, Jasmine is ready to make her mark in the entertainment world, on the big screen and on stage.
How’s does it to have a film come out and also be part of a hit Broadway show?
Jasmine Cephas Jones: It’s honestly like all your dreams come true at once. The Broadway show is every single genre of music that I grew up listening to including hip hop. To have a film that’s premiering a week after your dream musical opens, it’s hard to believe and sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.
With Mistress America, how would you describe the character you play?
JCJ: Her name is Nicolette and she is a jealous girlfriend that has adultery issues. She’s paranoid that her boyfriend will cheat on her. She’s not watching him. She’s very funny. She comes out with punchlines that Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig wrote. She’s a very serious character but the things that come out her mouth are very funny.
Did you ever think you had any funny bones in you?
JCJ: When I read the lines, I started laughing but after I saw the film, it was just so funny. Actually, when we were filming the scenes, there were times when we had to do it over and over again because we were laughing so hard. I had a feeling that it would come out funny even though she seems like a dead panner.
What attracted you to the film?
JCJ: It was the first movie I booked. I booked almost three years ago. It was the first gig I booked once I got an agent. I was ready. I was completely onboard and ready to do something like this.
How was working with Noah and Greta?
JCJ: What I learned in working with them is that in film, you stick to the script but there’s a lot of room for improv and bringing yourself to a role. Since it was the first big movie that I ever did, it was nice to have people like Noah and Greta to ask me to improv and my own personality or any other type of ideas. We did lots and lots of takes so we had so many options and different takes of playing the role as well. It was also really to see what they chose at the end if the day. With your first film, you don’t really know what to expect. I guess it’s different with different directors. With Noah and Greta, there’s a lot of room for different ideas for the actors to play and not just stick to exactly what they wrote. They wanted to see what others can bring to the table as well, which is really nice.
JCJ: I’m half British but I was raised in Brooklyn and Nicolette does have an attitude. She gives a lot of stares to people with that attitude.
Being that it was your first film, wasn’t it a pleasure that it was shot around NY?
JCJ: Yeah, it was great. I come from Midwood and so did Noah. It was cool talking with him and talking about the neighborhood.
Mistress America hits theaters starting August 14th.
Then, there’s this big musical you’re currently in, Hamilton. What can you say about your role?
JCJ: I play two roles and a lot of people in this musical play two roles as well. I play Peggy Schuyler, the youngest of the three Schuyler sisters. Eliza, the middle of the Schuyler sisters, ends up marrying Hamilton, so I’m the youngest, curious sister in the first act. In the second act, I play Maria Reynolds, who is his mistress that he has an affair with. It was one of the first big affairs to be published and become this big thing that happened back then. They are two complete different characters but they are fun to play because they are so different.
How exciting is it to go from an off-Broadway platform to a bigger medium?
JCJ: At the end of the day, we’re so used to doing this and what matters to me is doing the work and just doing a good show. I love being on Broadway and it’s awesome and a dream come true but also it’s about the work and making sure you’re doing what you’re doing right. It’s a wonderful thing to have people talk about the show but it’s important for me to stay humble and grounded and focused on what I’m here to do. That’s what matters to me. It’s a very exciting time. I’m extremely happy right now. It’s a blessing and a dream come true.
With your dad in the business as well, is this something you always wanted to do?
JCJ: Yes. I knew eventually that I wanted to do it. I went to school for singing, middle school at LaGuardia High School. Followed by Berkeley College of Music and afterwards I went to acting school at the Neighborhood Playhouse for Theater. I grew up being that kid backstage doing my math homework and my father made sure I knew from everybody in the cast to the lighting people and to respect everyone in the theater and all the way down to the janitor. It’s a part of my childhood. It’s what I know really. That theater community that comes with acting and being in the theater is second nature to me. It’s in my blood. I feel it’s my job to carry the torch.
What do you do when you’re not acting on stage or on camera?
JCJ: Honestly, I just hang out with my friends and family that keep me grounded. It’s mostly spending time with the people I don’t have time when I’m working. That’s very important to me.