Alphonso Romero Jones II talks Broadway beginnings, music and new role on Netflix’s ‘Grand Army’

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Photo credit: Guido Venitucci

Alphonso Romero Jones II was young when he got the acting bug. His mother was a writer who would help create plays at his church, and in those plays, Jones found he had a knack for acting.

“It started out as a passion, but once I started to see that I had a talent for it, I started to accomplish more,” said Jones.

At the young age of 9, Jones landed his first stage role as Young Simba in the Broadway adaptation of “The Lion King.” Jones looks back at that time as one of the greatest experiences of his life, not just as a kid who gets to have fun on stage but also for his career.

“Looking back, it was pretty major for me to be on Broadway. I was holding down the first act of the show,” said Jones. “While doing “The Lion King,” I learned how much potential I had. Being able to do that and have seen many people relying on you, I never let the pressure get to me. I knew that I was built for something bigger.”

After his time on Broadway, Jones still auditioned for stage and screen roles and ultimately ended up doing voiceover work for commercials before going to college at Saint Peter’s University. He landed a small role in the 2017 film “Roxanne, Roxanne,” and will soon make his Netflix debut on streaming site’s new series “Grand Army,” which is set to premiere on Oct. 16.

Based on Katie Cappiello’s 2013 play “Slut,” “Grand Army” follows a group of friends at Grand Army High School, the largest high school in Brooklyn, as they struggle with sexual, racial and economic politics and fight to succeed and become somebody. Jones plays John Ellis, a senior on the basketball team who is also an activist.

“He’s not your average jock,” said Jones. “He’s the leader of Grand Army High School’s Black student union and is outspoken about those issues. He’s an activist as well as an athlete.”

Jones had worked with Cappiello in past — he originated the role of “Evan” in her play “Now That We’re Men,” — so he was familiar with the social justice aspects of her work. After he landed the role in “Grand Army,” Jones dug into his own experiences to help bring the character to life on set.

“[My character and I] experienced a lot of similar things. When I first get a character, it’s normal for me to create more of a story even if it’s not on pages,” said Jones. “What I started putting into the character were things from my life and what I think about. In terms of activism, I already knew what the subject matter would be like because I’ve worked with Katy, I saw “Slut,” which the show is based off of, and was familiar with the realm of social justice work she does. I’m very comfortable in that space.”

Jones says that “Grand Army” is an important watch not just for young people, but for adults as well.

“I feel like it’s important for young people to watch if they want to see themselves portrayed authentically without glamor and really with just grit and raw truth,” said Jones. “If you are an adult and want to know more about the young generation, you get a good outlook at what’s going on in young people’s lives. It really shows the things that young people go through and how everything isn’t easy for us.”

In addition to acting, Jones has dipped his toes into writing his own music. He’s been playing drums from the time he was a kid and picked up some guitar while he was cast in “The Lion King.” He spent time playing in his high school’s orchestra and later started to craft his own songs.

“Once I got to college, people started to gravitate toward me because I was unique, I had a style,” said Jones. “I honed in on that and worked on a complete project. And once I did it, it was one of the best feelings.”

In April 2019, Jones released his debut album, “Romero,” which is available on all streaming platforms. Jones says that music allows him to live in the moment more than acting does, but he genuinely loves both.

“When I look at acting, it’s more of a craft to me. I sink my teeth into scripts and try to bring them to life,” said Jones. “With music, it’s how I feel in the moment, what is going on in life at the time. Music is more of a personal passion, I can’t really compare the two of them because they are so different. They have an equal part in my life.”

For Jones, there isn’t anything in the entertainment industry that he wouldn’t want to try out. 

“There’s nothing that I wouldn’t try do to,” said Jones. “I’d like to be in a writers’ room, try out being an executive producer, fund a film, fund my own film, direct — I could do anything I put my mind to.”

To stay up-to-date with Jones’ career, visit alphonsoromerojones.com.

Photo: Guido Venitucci