A little over four years ago, Bernard David Jones was living in his car with his dog. He’d left his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, relocating to the “City of Dreams”, Los Angeles in pursuit of an acting career.
While grappling with financial instability and uncertainty, Jones remained resolutely sanguine about the prospects of a successful acting career. While in the backseat of his car, he realized:
“This is a feeling that I never want to feel again, so I took it from there and
I was full steam ahead and now I get to sleep in my apartment.”
His resilience in the face of adversity did at last prove fruitful. After almost 5 years of hardships, Jones landed a starring role as Jermaine Leforge in ABC’s new comedy series
The Mayor. Jones journey to become a successful actor began in northern New Jersey
where, at a very young age, started singing in church and joined a performing arts company.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a performer and during that time, when I was younger, they kind of made you do everything, so I had to learn dancing, how to sing, and we had to act. I fell in love with performing altogether and I just gravitated towards becoming an actor.”
He readily credits his family as his support system, and for always believing in him even when they did not necessarily grasp his proclivity for performing.
“My mom, before she passed away, was very supportive of everything that this weird little kid wanted to do. If I wanted to dance around the house, while leaving the shower running, with the refrigerator door open, it was like,
‘Okay, this is my child.’
“After my mom passed away, I went to live with my grandmother, who was equally supportive; she kind of picked up the torch from there. I have an amazing father who has always been a part of my life. He just didn’t “get it” at first because he and I are complete opposites. We do have some of the same quirks and quality, but the way we view life is a little different. So he kind of had to see what I was doing to get on board with it.”
After receiving an Acting Degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Jones started working in various projects that gave him an opportunity to perform alongside some of the most renowned artists in the entertainment industry such as Lyfe Jennings and Andre 3000.
“I mean, come on, it’s Andre 3000, right? You see him, you hear his music, you see how revolutionary he was and then you get the opportunity to be in the same room and collaborate with the man! I mean it was amazing! It was my first professional gig right out of college. While I was still in college, I got an opportunity to go on tour with Lyfe Jennings, singing background for him and I just met so many different people and saw so many different places. It was just great. I’ve been blessed.”
After years of undeterred ambition, Jones’ big break came with the ABC sitcom The Mayor. The show revolves around an aspiring rapper, Courtney Rose, played by Brandon Michael Hall, from the town of Fort Grey, California.
Rose runs for mayor to promote his music, and unexpectedly wins.
“My agent sent over the audition notice; I read the script and I fell in love with it, like immediately. I knew how special the script was, how special the story was, how special the characters were, I needed to be a part of it.”
He was originally offered the role of T.K. Clifton, Rose’s less than smart best friend. After the audition, the producers didn’t seem very pleased. At that moment, I was like:
“Ah man, this script that I loved, I’m not going be able to be a part of it.”
His agents were able to get Jones back into the room to have a work session for the role of Jermaine instead of Clifton.
“Thank God, they did. They showed it to the producers, they liked it and
here we are!”
On the show, Jones works alongside an all-star cast including comedy heavyweights like Lea Michele and Yvette Nicole Brown. With a set full of comedians, the atmosphere on and off set is nothing short of fun and games.
“One of the things we all committed to early in the process, even at the pilot, was to create an atmosphere at work that was loving, open and fun; when a guest star would come on, they would get the biggest hug from all of us. We “know” the show will get picked up, we were confident, we would always speak for the future. So when the show does get picked up, this is how it needs to be. We have Yvette Nicole Brown, who’s a vet in the game and has been such an awesome resource of knowledge. And Lea as well. Being able to go to her to ask: ‘What are publicists?’ What is that all about?’ Just being able to learn from them and trying to pull gems from their experiences has been great.”
Although, the show is a light-hearted comedy series, Jones points out the show has an underlying message for the viewers.
“It’s a message of love, hope, community and unity. I’m really hoping that when people see the show, it sparks some type of mobility. Maybe we can be the catalyst for someone to go into their own situation and take responsibility and change their community. Whether you’re going to be the president of SGA or president of your church auxiliary or whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it! Even if you don’t have the experience, all you must do is be willing to learn to have a heart for people and love people.”
Jones hopes this message especially resonates with youth, and in particular those who are aspiring to become performers like him and “make it” in this business.
“Don’t focus on trying to make it. Everybody’s definition of “making it” is different. Like, you can be an actor that does amazing regional theater, and you’ve made it. Don’t focus so much on the idea of making it but just do the work, take it seriously. Know that you have a responsibility as an artist to reflect the world and show the world what it looks like, the issues that we have in the world and offer solutions to that. Also I say, stick to the plan. If you came to LA to become an actor, stick to that. Know your journey. How you get there might be different but stick to your plan, don’t second guess yourself.”