In 2018, Jasmine Cephas Jones appeared in the film “Blindspotting,” playing a smaller role alongside Daveed Diggs, her fellow “Hamilton” alum, and Rafael Casal, the pair of whom wrote, produced and starred in the movie. The actress was very much a side character — she played the partner of Casal’s character Miles, who is at the center of the film alongside his best friend, Collin (Diggs), a convicted felon serving out the end of his parole when he witnesses brutal police force that sends him spiraling.
The movie didn’t make much of a splash, but nonetheless the notion of parlaying it into a TV series was broached by Lionsgate, which produced the film. But the story isn’t a continuation of Miles and Collin; Cephas Jones is helming the spin-off series, on Starz, which is focused now on telling her character Ashley’s story, one that was very much left unspoken in the film original.
“I got a call from Diggs and Rafa,” Cephas Jones says, over the phone from her home in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Lionsgate actually asked if they wanted to do ‘Blindspotting’ into a TV show. And Raf and Diggs were like, well, we kind of told our story already, but if we were to do it, we’d love for Jasmine Cephas Jones to lead it and play Ashley. They were like, ‘we really wish that we could have seen Ashley a little more in the film. We would love to go from the point of view through Ashley’s eyes and how she navigates through the world.’ And I got really excited.”
The Midwood, Brooklyn, native, who got her big break as an originating cast member in a little Broadway show called “Hamilton,” was immediately drawn to the idea of what Ashley’s side of things could be.
“I think what always resonated with me is how the show handles the trauma with comedy,” she says. “I love that it focuses on Ashley and a lot of women in the show. I love that there are a lot of women directors, producers and writers on the show as well. And it’s a point of view from a lot of these women that are dealing with the prison system.”
The series, out June 13, picks up six months after the film left off, with Miles having been thrown in jail and Ashley left to manage life for herself and their son, Sean. Helen Hunt costars as Miles’ mother, who Ashley and Sean are forced to live with.
“Ashley has been brewing in my mind for three years,” Cephas Jones says. “She has gone through so many edits and different storylines and she’s gone through so much in my mind. So by the time I got on set, after having so many conversations with Rafa and Diggs and how we want to approach it, I definitely felt ready. And then I just learned so much more about her as we continued filming. There wasn’t much that you knew about her in the film, and you just saw this really intense side of her that was protecting her son. But this show is all about her.”
Leaving “Hamilton,” Cephas Jones says she was looking to find another project that made an impact, and the script for “Blindspotting” connected with her.
“I just really wanted to work. It was one of the projects that I did after leaving ‘Hamilton’ and coming from a show like ‘Hamilton’ that was just so big and inspired people, I just wanted to continue that type of energy and just do projects that I really care about,” she says. “And ‘Blindspotting,’ I thought the storytelling was so unique and the film and I wanted to be a part of that. I think just at that point, I really wanted to do projects that moved me and had the potential to move others as well.”