Cherry Jones Cast as the President on “24”


Out actress Cherry Jones has been cast as President Allison Taylor on Season 7 of the Emmy-winning drama 24, Fox announced Sunday at the 2007 Television Critics Association press tour. The show’s new season begins in January 2008.

Fox did not reveal any details about the character, but Jones will be the show’s first female commander in chief. Critics are already noting that the casting coincides with Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, but Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Liguori insisted the show intends no comment on real-world politics. That’s lucky for Hillary: Previous presidents have not fared well on 24, facing everything from air attacks to assassination and rarely serving a full term.

Although fans of 24 may not have heard of the 50-year-old actress, theatergoers know Jones as a major Broadway star. A Tony Award-winner for The Heiress (1995) and Doubt (2005), Jones has also had television and movie roles, most recently in Ocean’s 12 and The West Wing. readers may know her best for the 2001 Lifetime movie What Makes a Family (costarring Brooke Shields), based on the true story of a Florida lesbian mother’s fight to maintain custody of her child after the death of her partner.

Jones grew up in Paris, Tenn. She attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, making her Broadway debut in Stepping Out in 1987. Her myriad other theater credits include Angels in America (1993), A Moon for the Misbegotten (2000) and Faith Healer (2006). She has been called the finest stage actress of her generation, eliciting comparisons to Helen Hayes and Colleen Dewhurst. Onstage, she is magnetic, somehow simultaneously warm and intimidating. Her theater work will undoubtedly serve her well as she moves into the fictional Oval Office.

With the 24 casting news, Jones becomes the only openly lesbian actress in a prominent role on a prime-time network show next season.

The last woman to hold that honor was Jones’ girlfriend, Sarah Paulson (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). (Clearly there’s some sort of unwritten network rule that limits the number of out actresses on prime-time television to one. At least Jones won’t have to travel far for the torch-passing ceremony.)

Most websites and wire stories reporting the casting news do not mention that Jones is a lesbian. Jones herself has always been open about her sexual orientation. She even told the San Francisco Chronicle that her first crush was Julie Andrews.

She played a lesbian in the 1993 play And Baby Makes Seven, kissing her co-star onstage. Twelve years later, she and Paulson shared a kiss on national television when Jones won the Tony Award for Best Actress for her role in Doubt; she thanked Paulson in her acceptance speech.

Last February, Jones told that she believes it’s important to “live my life openly and freely and with joy and thanksgiving.” Her presence on a network show — as only the second female president on television, after Geena Davis on ABC’s short-lived Commander in Chief — will likely make her fans and the lesbian community even more grateful for that openness.

Season 7 (aka “Day 7”) of 24 begins in January 2008, airing Mondays at 9:00 p.m. on Fox.

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