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Blindspotting: Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her favorite scene on The Starz Show

“There are so many layers to this scene,” Cephas Jones tells IndieWire.

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Welcome to My favorite moment! In a new week-long series, IndieWire spoke to the actors behind some of our favorite TV appearances of the year about how the on-screen moment they’re most proud of came about.

The 2018 Starz adaptation of the feature film Blindspotting is one of the boldest and most thought-provoking series on television, helmed by the amazingly capable Jasmine Cephas Jones. In the series, which reprises her role as Ashley from the feature film, Cephas Jones plays a woman struggling to raise her young son following the recent incarceration of her boyfriend Miles (Rafael Casal).

The show’s mix of humor and social commentary has resulted in several beautiful and unique moments, including Ashley’s numerous spoken-word verses on camera, a crazy trip on mushrooms, and a date between Ashley and her subconscious version of Miles that’s utterly romantic is. But for Cephas Jones, who spoke to IndieWire via Zoom, her favorite scene comes in the second episode of the series.

Ashley, who spends her days working at a high-end Oakland hotel, has just been proposed by a male guest and verbally abused by the same guest’s wife. Miles has since been sentenced to five years in prison. In her anger and frustration, Ashley enters the rude guests’ hotel room to give her her opinion.

The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and rearranged to improve the flow of the conversation.

IndieWire: What makes this moment your favorite moment?

Jasmine Cephas Jones: This scene has so many levels. We’ve only done it a few times because we ran out of lights; It was the second day of shooting of the show. Day two is like a guinea pig, how are we going to run the show? It’s the first time everyone’s getting used to each other, other people trying to figure out what the show is and how people work. It was a really long day, like 16 or 17 hours, something like that.

There are stuntmen in there, the special people [who] Work with the special glass made of sugar. The choreography like, “Okay, so don’t forget that word, pick up the tennis racquet and do it on this side.” It’s so much to think about, and people don’t realize it’s so grand and sublime, into one Going to a TV show, a movie, or a theater really out of your own pocket in ways that aren’t your normal circumstances. There are two rooms, the bathroom [and] the bedroom, and then I go to the living area. I did it twice in each room. So I only really had two tries and thank goodness.

Due to the logistics of the scene, how did that work to maintain emotion, gracefully walk around the room, and deliver the verses of the spoken word?

there [were] four main things I had to hit on certain lines. I rehearsed being in the room with director Seith Mann. But I wasn’t allowed to throw anything away or go through the choreography until the day of shooting. Much of the day I walked in and out of rooms with a fake tennis racquet and walked the lines; “Here I smash it here, and then you [have] Take the tennis racket and walk around your body. Make sure you do this at this angle as it will look better falling to the ground. That’s how detailed these things are.

So there [were] four or five things I had to get rid of, the television, the picture on the wall, the shower, the mirror, the vase in the living room, and finally there was this big ass closet [I] throw to the ground. That was so much fun. when do you do this Never. but [it’s] a lot of pressure to make sure you’re throwing everything at the right word and making sure you’re doing it at the right angle, and when you’re caught up in the whirlwind of it all you have to get to the point because you tend to forget, there is so much feeling coming out of you.

How do you mentally prepare for not only a physical scene like this, but one where Ashley is emotionally drained?

Many of the verse scenes that Ashley has are very important moments for her in the season. You’re probably at her most elevated, and when she’s at her most emotional and sharing that with people. I consider these verses as Shakespearean monologues as I begin. They are not simple verses that Raf[ael Casal] and [Daveed] Write digs. They rhyme and then they don’t rhyme. It’s very, very specific and they write it in a very specific way.

The first thing I do with these scenes is go straight to the text and anchor it in my head so I don’t have to think about it. You deal with the thoughts and the beats and how you study them, and then you throw them out the window and play. So a lot of the preparation is me studying, walking around my house saying words all the time and trying to do things while saying those words out loud so I don’t get distracted. Usually when I have big scenes, like when I need to cry or scream or something really intense, I do the opposite beforehand and I like to either meditate or withdraw from everyone on the set. I find a quiet room and try to ground myself as much as possible so I’m calm [and] be as relaxed as possible so I can let go of whatever that anger or deep scream is.

Anything that happens before this scene, be it racism or misogyny, I don’t have to look for it. That’s happened to me in my life and that’s something I recognize as a woman, as a woman of color. I don’t have to look for it, it’s definitely a feeling that I unfortunately know quite well. And so you combine all of that together and you can represent for a moment and do what so many women want to do and can’t do because they’re called a slut or too bossy or crazy.

Did you need a decompression period after shooting something like this?

I go to the next room and I give myself about seven minutes to come down because I’m still crying and I’m still feeling that emotion. I think it’s also healthy to give yourself, especially with something so intense [time] getting back into and out of reality so you don’t take it home with you. What’s crazy[ier] is that after we were done, we filmed me coming down the hall. So that wasn’t the end of the day! We had to stop because our lights went out. I paused and then we went straight into the choreography of coming down the hall. I remember being so tired at the end of the day but also so happy I made it.

Blindspotting Season 1 is now available to stream on Starz.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/05/blindspotting-jasmine-cephas-jones-favorite-scene-starz-1234726291/ Blindspotting: Jasmine Cephas Jones talks about her favorite scene on The Starz Show

Chris Estrada

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