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Emmy First-Timers Club: Jasmine Cephas Jones Reveals the Surprising Actor Who's Inspired Her Career

As part of E! News' weeklong celebration of the Emmy First-Timers Club, #FreeRayshawn's Jasmine Cephas Jones answered some burning questions.

By Billy Nilles Sep 17, 2020 11:00 PMTags
Watch: Jasmine Cephas Jones Talks "#FreeRayshawn" - Emmy Confidential

You never forget your first. For a lucky handful of TV personalities, that time is now. Get to know the names behind the nominations with Emmy First-Timers Club, E! News' weeklong celebration of newcomers with nods in some of the biggest categories!

Emmy nominations run in the Cephas Jones family.

Four years after actor Ron Cephas Jones began receiving his quartet of consecutive nods at TV's biggest night for his performance on This Is Us, his daughter Jasmine Cephas Jones joins him with her first. No stranger to award shows after taking home a Grammy in 2016 as an original member of the Hamilton cast, the actress is recognized in the Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series category for her work in the Quibi original #FreeRayshawn.

As Jasmine told E! News, neither father nor daughter could quite believe it when they learned the good news in late July. (Ron is nominated, for the third year in a row, in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. He won in 2018. His first nomination in 2017 came in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category.)

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Emmys 2020: Stars React to Their Nominations

"My dad, he's a great father, but he's also been one of my mentors," she said, recalling the day she learned of her nomination. "I called him and congratulated him, and I was like, 'Dad, I'm nominated, too.' He was like, 'What?!' And then he was like, 'I've got to call you back' because he was on the phone. He was like, 'I need a full moment.'"

For Jasmine, getting to share in the moment with her father has made the nomination all the more special. "The whole reason why I'm even acting in the first place is because of him," she continued. "He opened my eyes to theater at such a young age, to being an artist, analyzing scripts, and just loving what you do. So to be able to kind of share this moment with him it's just such a full circle for me. We're peers now, so I already feel like I've won."

While we await the results of Jasmine's category, which will be revealed during night four of the 2020 Creative Awards Emmys on Thurs., Sept. 17, get to know the actress a bit better with her responses to our Emmy First-Timers Club questionnaire!

Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

Whose performances inspired you to become an actor?

My favorite actor of all time is Gary Oldman. I think it's just the way he completely transforms himself into his characters. He goes so far that sometimes you don't even realize it's him until the credits. He truly is an artist in every way and inspires me a lot in the work that I do.

What was the last non-acting job you held?

The last non-acting job I had was working at a beer garden in Queens. I would sneak my audition sides underneath the cashier and study my lines, hoping I wouldn't get caught by the manager. 

What TV show other than your own have you never missed an episode of?

Peaky Blinders on Netflix, I've watched multiple times. I think the acting and the writing on that show is incredible. Right now I'm obsessed with Lovecraft Country. I'm literally on the edge [of] my seat in every episode that I watch. It's horror, sci-fi, a lesson in Black and American history, and exciting all in one show.

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Emmys 2020: Get to Know These Breakout Stars

The TV show based on my life would be called: 

Right now, at this moment, I would call it One Day at a Time.

When was the first time, if ever, you remember seeing yourself represented on TV?

I think it was seeing Lisa Bonet and Jasmine Guy on TV. I remember thinking i wanted to be as cool Lisa and as fierce as Jasmine. I also remember seeing Sophia Loren for the first time and how she embraced her curves. I think she is fabulous.

What do you want to see more of on TV?

I always want to see more fierce female characters on TV. Female characters that aren't just a prop. Female characters that drive the stories and are interesting and fun and can also be the superhero. I feel like we are seeing it more in TV and film nowadays, but we can always have more. 

What was the first thought that passed through your mind when you learned you were nominated? 

It was a complete shock. I honestly didn't believe it for a minute or so. 

How did you celebrate your nomination?

My sister came over to my house with some champagne and we watched a bunch of rom-coms.

Where will you put your Emmy if you win?

Right next to my Grammy.

To find out if Jasmine's Grammy is getting a new neighbor on the shelf, be sure to tune in to night four of the 2020 Primetime Creative Arts Emmys when they stream live on Thursday, Sept. 17 at Emmys.com.

For more from the Emmy First-Timers Club, check out responses from Nicole Byer, Rain Valdez and Mamoudou Athie—and be sure to check back with E! News every day through Emmy Sunday on Sept. 20!

Visit E!'s 2021 Emmy Awards page for a recap of TV's biggest night.