Performers of the Week: Charles Esten and Ron Cephas Jones

This Is Us MemphisTHE PERFORMER | Ron Cephas Jones

THE SHOW | This Is Us

THE EPISODE | “Memphis” (Feb. 21, 2017)

THE PERFORMANCE | All season long, as Randall’s wisdom-spouting birth father William, Jones has been a rock-solid member of This Is Us‘ formidable acting ensemble. But with his work in this week’s “Memphis,” he saved his best for last.

There was a charming lightness to Jones’ performance in the early scenes, as William embraced his terminal diagnosis and headed back to his hometown of Memphis with Randall in tow, joyfully soaking up every last moment of life he had left. But Jones also got the waterworks started when William offered his heartfelt thanks to Jack for raising his son for him. And that final hospital scene… it was a tough one, for sure, but along with his costar Sterling K. Brown, Jones found a glimmer of optimism amid all the tears. As William slipped away, Jones portrayed his gratitude, his fear of the great unknown and his ultimate peace — all infused with a gorgeous, fragile humanity.

Despite his death, we have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of William down the road. (Look how much we’ve seen Jack!) But if “Memphis” is indeed Jones’ final appearance on the show, he truly went out on a high note. On his deathbed, William told Randall, “You deserve the beautiful life you’ve made.” Well, Jones deserves all the accolades he’ll get for the beautiful performance he gave.

Nashville Rayna DiesTHE PERFORMER | Charles Esten

THE SHOW | Nashville

THE EPISODE | “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (Feb. 23, 2017)

THE PERFORMANCE | Nashville‘s Rayna and Deacon were the fairy tale. They were the show’s central couple. They were endgame. Yet when it became clear during Thursday’s episode that Connie Britton’s Rayna was not long for this world, Esten gave a tour de force performance as Deacon came to terms with the fact that the love of his life was dying.

In what must have been an emotionally exhausting episode to shoot, Esten made Deacon’s panic and disbelief palpable as he swung from elation that his wife had survived surgery to a niggling fear that a vision of her dead mother meant something terrible was about to happen. And when a sudden downturn landed Rayna in the Intensive Care Unit, Esten had his finest moments of the episode, showing how mightily Deacon was working to hold himself together for his love’s sake.

As Rayna slowly detached from life, Deke kissed her and begged her to stick around just a little while longer, Esten filling “Don’t leave me!” with a yelping, desperate, growing grief. And when Rayna finally did pass, we don’t know what impressed us more: Esten’s ability to sing three-part harmony through a throat choked with tears, or his painfully real commitment to Deacon’s all-encompassing loss. All told, the work was Esten’s best on the series to date.

ShieldHONORABLE MENTION | Before Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. thrust us into the far-out Framework, Elizabeth Henstridge and Iain De Caestecker had us rapt with an all-too-real, six-minute face-off between Simmons and Fitz, where they grappled with the question of which of them was an LMD. With Jemma training a gun on her possibly compromised lover, the pair’s performance was incredible in that no matter the outcome, it would simultaneously be totally logical and completely astonishing. While Henstridge toggled between tears and intensity, De Caestecker crushed us by switching from an anguished Fitz, doubling over as he slashed his wrist, to an ice-cold android, plunging a knife into his accuser. Capping the encounter was a tussle in which Simmons just barely ignored the plaintive cries of her true love’s doppelganger as she stabbed him, again and again, while he adopted the stone-faced stare of heartless LMD. Simply chilling.

Walking DeadHONORABLE MENTION | No fan of The Walking Dead can say that the long-awaited reunion of besties Carol and Daryl didn’t live up to its promise. When he showed up unexpectedly on her doorstep, her portrayer Melissa McBride‘s face registered, in an instant, more emotions than we can even name. But it was after Carol explained her painful decision to leave Alexandria, so as to save her soul by stopping killing, that the actress really blew us away. Her eyes filling with tears unbidden, she showed us how desperately afraid Carol was to ask if the Saviors had retaliated for the attack on their outpost. When Daryl said that everyone back home was OK, McBride’s expression of relief was so palpable that, for a minute, even we believed her pal’s beautiful lie.

Which performance knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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42 Comments
  1. Simon says:

    Obvious but well deserved choices this week. Hopefully next weeks choices can be more comedic, I’ve got no more tears to cry. I would recommend Timothy Olyohant for Santa Clarita Diet, he’s so very funny in that show.

    • Simon says:

      **Timothy Olyphant

      • Winter says:

        He’s so funny on that show. I loved it so much.

        • MMD says:

          I too couldn’t have imagined it being anything other than a tie. Both performances absolutely gutted me and I agree, Chip Esten does need an Emmy.

          • MMD says:

            ***oops should have been post below to iHeart.
            I haven’t watched Santa Clarita Diet yet because I’m not quite ready to give up TO as Raylan Givens. Just rewatched the series again but I know he is good in anything he does.

    • flowerduh says:

      Timothy is really funny in that show! Personally, I think the show is funny because of him. Actually, Timothy and Richard T. Jones are hilarious in that show! Especially, when they are in scenes together.

  2. iHeart says:

    I knew it, I knew it would be a tie this week. Which is funny since both episodes took place in Tennessee (get it! because Memphis and Nashville are in Tennessee right?) god Chip needs an Emmy ASAP.

    • MMD says:

      I too couldn’t have imagined it being anything other than a tie. Both performances absolutely gutted me and I agree, Chip Esten does need an Emmy.
      Posted the above in the wrong place up further.

  3. kirads09 says:

    For me no other choice for POTW than Thomas Jane (Miller) – The Expanse. Not even an honorable mention here? One of the most gripping, gut wrenching, incredibly well done hours of TV I have ever witnessed – not just in the genre either. This one’s for you, beratna.

    • Troy says:

      I’m with you 100%. I can’t believe that it didn’t merit even an honorable mention. In fact, I see so little coverage of The Expanse on this site, that I wonder if it’s even on their radar most of the time. There are very few episodes of TV that come close to what The Expanse did this week. I’d include it among the likes of The Constant from Lost, The Body from Buffy, and Ozymandias from Breaking Bad.

    • flutiefan says:

      i’ve literally never heard of “The Expanse”…

  4. BananaOliphant says:

    Not even an “honorable mention” to Bob Morley from this week’s episode of The 100? His scene was short, but it’s not easy to pull off and show that much grief and emotion and pain in such a brief amount of time.

  5. dan says:

    I would add Jack Falahee as honorable mention for HTGAWM.

  6. ladyluck527 says:

    I’d have gone with Sterling K. Brown from This Is Us..

  7. Lisa says:

    Iain and Elizabeth were amazing! Thank you for including them, they deserve more critical acclaim.

  8. CE was amazing in this episode

  9. James says:

    No Viola? Really?

    • Cate says:

      Viola Davis could win every week. She is so good ALL the time. However the 2 part finale had that great scene with Annalise and Connor and the end scene where she reveals her feelings to the group about Wes. Just a fantastic actress.

      With the emotional episodes of This is Us and Nashville, the grief stricken were always going to dominate the choices this week.

      Can I throw in best guest star nods for Brian Tyree Henry for This is Us and Carla Gugino for Nashville

  10. Joey Padron says:

    Great choices for performer of the week and honorable mentions this week.

  11. flowerduh says:

    Ron Cephas Jones really earned his spot this week. I don’t cry over tv shows or anything but this was a touching episode. I hope he gets an Emmy nod this year.

  12. Soraya Castellucci says:

    Definitely going to choose Charles Esten, very real , felt like I was there could feel the pain. Amazing performance, the dialogue the pain on his face. Again felt like it was happening to me.

  13. TvLover says:

    Yes, Ron Cephas Jones was great in that episode, and I am so glad that the show made the episode only about William and Randal, as it should have been. Both actors Jones and Brown did a fantastic job, I’d say An Emmy nomination episode of This Is Us for sure.
    Loved the long awaited reunion of Carol and Daryl on The Walking Dead.

  14. TvLover says:

    Also, I’d like to add, even though he gets not nearly enough attention or mention on the show, I was cracking up watching Atticus Shaffer’s character Brick on The Middle, to get through that Scottish Hsmilton rap without breaking character was very impressive. Kudos to him, and the quirky character he plays so well.

  15. Natalia says:

    Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, 4×15. FitzSimmons.

  16. LAwoman says:

    Ron Cephas Jones wrecked me. I hope we do see him again. Melissa McBride is always a standout performer on WD and that reunion was so sweet and sad.

  17. Espy says:

    Melissa McBride is a powerhouse performer. She can say more without words than most can say with..
    Pair her with Norman Reedus and the scenes explode. She deserve so much praise.

  18. Chloe Bennet and Ming-Na Wen also delivered some amazing performances this week.

    • canadian ninja says:

      Agreed. The scene where Daisy & Simmons are both terrified and pointing weapons at each other was f-ing riveting.

      But if I had to single out one performer for the whole episode it’s definitely Elizabeth Henstridge. I mean, she had to stab Fitz-bot to death and it was just so horrifying.

  19. bob says:

    i would like to mention Ken Jeong for his perf on Dr. Ken. The ep was an touching and personal tribute to his wife, a breast cancer survivor. The cast was great but you can see how emotional Ken was and I thought he was great.

  20. kmw says:

    I agree with your choices but another honorable mention should have been Emily Deschanel. It was a lovely performance in a show that was better than how it was promoted Her and David Boreanaz managed to make lemonade out of what was partially a lemon on Tuesday. Both of them were excellent.

  21. Couldn’t agree more with the top choices.
    Ron Cephas Jones was outstanding and I’m going to stop here because I shed enough tears over this episode already and I’m still raw. The ducks! :'(
    .
    Also agree with Charles Esten. Haven’t seen the episode and I never will (done with Nashville) but he’s amazing every week as Deacon and I’ve seen what he can do with complicated emotional scenes. I have NO doubt he killed it. Deacon losing the love of his life? It must have been epic!

  22. Lee says:

    Tuesday night Randall died on This Is Us. Just when I thought I was all cried out, along comes Rayna dying on Nashville. Thanks to Charles Eastens’ emotional performance, I found myself in another puddle of tears! I hope next week I can find something to laugh about!

  23. Janalee says:

    Charles esten deserves an Emmy for that performance!