John Christopher Jones is an actor's actor, which is the highest compliment one can bestow upon a performer. The actor's actor doesn't necessarily have to be in the biggest productions, nor have they won a ton of awards. They are hard-working, consistent, talented, and above all else, respected by their peers.
John Christopher Jones is all of these things as well as something else — he is someone living with late-stage Parkinson's. This disease was thrust into the limelight most notably by Michael J. Fox, who famously has Parkinson's, and who started his own foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, in an attempt to find a cure. Much like Michael J. Fox, John isn't letting his disease define him, which we will see in his episode of New Amsterdam. Let's get to know this actor's actor.
Who is John Christopher Jones?
You know how you see an actor in a show or movie and you say to yourself, "There's that guy, he was in that one thing." That's John Christopher Jones. You don't realize you know him, but you do. He's been popping in and out of our televisions since the '70s. His list of guest-starring roles is longer than a CVS receipt. From Amazing Stories to The Sopranos and one memorable turn as Benjamin Franklin, John Christopher Jones has been entertaining people for decades.
It's the stage where John has done some of his best work in this business of show. He's been performing on one since the early '70s. In 1985, he was in a Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh. The New York Times said John "need only edit out some staginess to sharpen his adept characterization" of his version of Willie Oban. And while that doesn't sound like an overwhelmingly positive review, it was the NY Times, after all. They are tough, and so is John.
According to an interview with the Los Angeles Times, John was diagnosed with Parkinson's 18 years ago. In this conversation about his role on New Amsterdam, John admitted that he was very worried about his Parkinson's getting in the way of his portrayal. He didn't want to disappoint the cast and crew. "I’ve had a hard time learning lines for a while now, but the best thing about TV is that if you mess up, you can do it again," he told Mary McNamara from the LA Times.
John's episode of New Amsterdam also features another actor with a disability, Timothy Omundson, who suffered a stroke in 2017. Timothy is best known for his roles on Psych and Supernatural. In the LA Times interview, they both gushed about working with each other. "One of the biggest selling points of this role was that I got to work with this epic Broadway star, and he did not disappoint," Timothy said of John.
'New Amsterdam' strives to be a very inclusive show
Working with actors with a disability is the norm for New Amsterdam. David Schulner, the show's creator, said their writers wall, the place where all of their story arcs, ideas, and potential characters live, is filled with people like Timothy and John. They want to cast actors with a disability and build a story around them that isn't just about their disability, which is what a lot of shows do.
In July 2020, David took part in the 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities by the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility along with casting director David Caparelliotis. It was there David said, “The stories we tell are stories that I haven’t seen other places ... If people see themselves as important enough to have stories told about them, then you’re shining a light on people who have been in the shadows for far too long.”
New Amsterdam airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m EST on NBC.