Ron Cephas Jones, ‘This is Us’ patriarch and prolific stage actor, dies at 66

Actor Ron Cephas Jones in the Los Angeles Times studio in 2017.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Ron Cephas Jones, the Emmy Award-winning actor most famous for playing William Hill on NBC’s hit show “This is Us,” has died. He was 66.

A representative for Jones confirmed his death to multiple outlets Saturday, attributing it to “a long-standing pulmonary issue,” and releasing a statement to People that read in part, “Throughout the course of his career, his warmth, beauty, generosity, kindness and heart were felt by anyone who had the good fortune of knowing him.”

Jones began acting in college but first became widely known in 2016, playing Hill, the biological father of Sterling K. Brown’s character, Randall Pearson, who was adopted after being abandoned at a fire station as an infant. Hill was a beloved recurring character after Randall discovers him as an adult. The emotional arc of the father-son re-connection, as well as the redemptive story line it told, resonated with audiences and critics, and Jones was nominated for four Emmy Awards for his performance. He won two — in 2018 and 2020.


Stage was Jones’ formative love and he spent much of his career acting in live theater. In 2022 he won a Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as a featured actor in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s show “Clyde’s.” He played the role of Montrellous, a cook at a truck stop who treats sandwich making as a spiritual endeavor.

That play opened in 2021, a year and a half after Jones underwent a double lung transplant after years of suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. According to a profile in the New York Times, Jones spent nearly two months at L.A.’s Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He was on a ventilator and had to learn to breathe, eat and walk again. He said his recovery was inspired by the hope of eventually returning to live theater.

“My whole life has been the stage,” Jones said. “The idea of not performing again seemed worse to me than death.”

Jones was born Jan. 18, 1957, in Paterson, N.J. He loved jazz and graduated as a theater major from Ramapo College. He moved to Los Angeles and ended up driving a bus for four years before traveling around and heading to New York City in 1985. He soon became a fixture at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side. He acted on and off Broadway for the next 30 years, occasionally scoring roles in television and film including in “Half Nelson” with Ryan Gosling and “Dolemite is My Name.”

In 2015, Jones was cast in the recurring role of Romero on the streaming show “Mr. Robot,” and in 2016 “This is Us” came calling. Jones’ character, Hill, dies of stomach cancer toward the end of Season 1 (he reappears in the show’s hopscotch timeline for many seasons more). It’s an incredibly emotional episode, and in 2017, he told The Times that after the episode featuring his death aired, fans just wanted to hug him.

“I’ll take them,” Jones told The Times. “I can use all the hugs I can get.”

Jones is survived by his daughter, Jasmine Cephas Jones.