Every year, Emmy nominations achieve a few different things: They remind you that you’re super behind on almost all television; they make it impossible to root for a single person, since everyone in each category is always so great; and they set some actors up for some seriously impressive achievements.
Kerry Washington, for example, is the first person -- period -- to be nominated for four awards in a single season. She’s one of 33 Black nominees up for acting awards -- a record for the awards show. Quibi, the mobile-only streaming service that launched this year, managed to swing 10 nominations.
Emmy nominations also make you go, “OMG, her?! I love her!” when you find that a favorite yet low-profile performer has worked some TV magic you hadn’t known about. That actor for me this year is Jasmine Cephas Jones.
The 31-year-old actress and singer has kept it light as far as her workload, breaking out into indie films and small one- to two-episode roles on network television shows. Brooklyn born and bred, Cephas Jones attended New York performing arts schools throughout her youth, following in the footsteps of actor father Ron Cephas Jones (most recently seen in NBC's “This Is Us,” which he’s nominated for this year). You can find her in the Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield-led “The Photograph,” as well as on stage alongside theater alums Peter Dinklage and Blake Jenner in off-Broadway show “Cyrano.”
She’s also been working on some music -- an EP called “Blue Bird” debuted in March following a few singles.
But in 2015, Lin-Manuel Miranda found her. Cephas Jones crushed the roles of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in “Hamilton” starting all the way back when the show was still off-Broadway; she remained in the original cast until 2016, meaning that, yes, when you watch the Disney+ recorded version of the musical, that’s our girl up there! Cephas Jones even snagged a Grammy as one of the soloists on the official cast album for “Hamilton.”
"Hamilton" also gave Cephas Jones one more thing: a downright enviable romance. She met performer Anthony Ramos during the off-Broadway show (he played Philip Hamilton and John Laurens), and the two got engaged on Christmas Eve of 2018. Her vocals were featured on Ramos’s EP, “The Freedom,” and she can be seen in his “Mind Over Matter” video.
Ramos also fully hyped up his lady when he found out about her nomination, and his reaction would make even the most cynical person swoon.
More recently, Cephas Jones was in Hulu’s “Mrs. Fletcher.” Actually, she’s pretty much the only redeeming part of that show, and this is me talking about a Kathryn Hahn project. Based on the book by Tom Perotta, the miniseries adapted the story as best they could, but the fact of the matter is that a story about a divorced empty-nester exploring her sexuality and experiencing porn for the first time just...didn’t translate well on screen.
Cephas Jones, though, was the star power of the show. She played college-aged Chloe, who, despite her better judgment, goes out with Hahn’s character’s jock son. The two don’t get on well, but Chloe’s character is written to be confident in her body, mind and decisions and is an excellent example of college kids holding their own against what society expects of them. She played the hell out of an important role in an otherwise cringe-worthy retelling.
Which brings us to “#FreeRayshawn,” for which Cephas Jones snagged her Emmy nomination. It dropped on Quibi on April 6 and follows Iraq War veteran Rayshawn Morris (Stephen James), who’s been set up by the police, and his wife (Cephas Jones) and son as they hole up in their apartment, avoiding custody and waiting to learn of their fates.
Cephas Jones is up for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series, something that she likely never saw coming when she signed up to act for a brand new streaming service. Still, a story like “#FreeRayshawn” was an important project for her, especially in the current climate.
From the role of “shopgirl” to “Hamilton” to an Emmy-nominated performance, it’s time we all start paying attention to this one. Suffice it to say, she’s going to the moon, and we’re ready to watch her fly.