An audience with the president

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default An audience with the president

An audience with the president
It’s not every day that the president comes to Paris, but Saturday was no ordinary day around these parts.

No, Barack Obama was not preparing to scope out the World’s Biggest Fish Fry. President Allison Taylor, aka Paris native Cherry Jones, was in town for four different events throughout the day.

Jones, who plays the role of the president on the Fox TV series “24,” appeared for photos at Jack Jones Flowers & Gifts, held a president’s town hall meeting at the Krider Performing Arts Center and also was at an after party at Lee Academy for the Arts. There also was a silent auction for several unique pieces of “24” memorabilia at the Paris-Henry County Heritage Center.

The events raised at least $20,000, according to Mike Key of the Downtown Paris Association. All proceeds from the events are to be split between Lee Academy, Paris-Henry County Arts Council, Heritage Center, DPA and Friends of Rhea Public Library.

“Celebrity lasts about fifteen minutes,” Jones told a crowd of about 125 people at the town hall event, “and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I took my fifteen minutes to raise some money (for hometown charities)?’”

Jones is quite familiar with charity work. She noted her pride in her hometown, mentioning the Helping Hand radio auction as an example.

“Wherever I go, I talk about Paris,” Jones said. “I’m always telling people about Helping Hand. What you people do with a month-and-a-half on the radio and chocolate cakes (is incredible).”

Switching the topic to her career, Jones said it took her a while to feel comfortable in the acting profession.

“It wasn’t until I was about thirty-four that I felt I could hang my shingle out there as an actor,” she said.

Despite that, she had confidence very early on.

“I’ve always been optimistic,” she said. “I got that feeling (that I made it) when I got my first (acting) job.”

That job paid her $85 a week.

“We would serve coffee and drinks before the show started, and that’s how we made our big money,” she said.

“My family came up to see the show and I was very nervous that they were there,” Jones said. “(My sister) Susan got a cup of coffee and I put about half of it in her lap. The first thing I said was, ‘Oh Susan, I’m so glad it’s you.’”

Jones said actors must have an interesting blend in order to be successful.

“You have to have a lot of confidence and a major inferiority complex that kind of feed each other,” she said.

Jones spoke about the differences between acting on stage and on television. She said she prefers theater over television and film “any day of the week,” but she enjoys the comfort level that television provides.

One of the main differences between the mediums is in the development of a character.

“I did ‘Doubt’ seven hundred and eight times, and I promise you, my last eight performances were the best,” she said.

“With ‘24,’ I don’t have a clue what’s coming down the pike three weeks from now. I didn’t know until the third episode that I had a grown daughter.”

After several questions from interviewer Travis McLeese and a brief intermission, Jones answered questions from audience members. One attendee asked about cast members, and Jones told the audience that series star Kiefer Sutherland is quite a gentleman.

“Any social event we’re at, he’ll always escort me to the ladies’ room, wait for me and escort me back to the party,” she said.

Another audience member asked Jones what roles she would like to play that she has not played yet. Her answer was an interesting one.

“I’m embarrassed to say I don’t have any burning desire (to play any other characters),” she said.

“If you make it your goal to do good work with good people, then you’re gonna be happy.”

She also explained the process she went through to earn the role of Allison Taylor, which went about as smoothly and quickly as possible.

“They flew me out to the building where they shoot ‘24.’ I talked to the writers for about twenty minutes and had a wonderful time. I walked out the door, and I wasn’t in my car ten minutes when I got the call that they wanted me to be the president.”

She never auditioned for the role.

“I joked that after playing Sister Aloysius in ‘Doubt,’ president is a lateral move.”

Jones said she had never seen the show before being cast but quickly became obsessed with it.

“I had heard of it and remember thinking it was a cool idea,” she said. “I watched the first two episodes of the first season before the meeting (with the writers), and watched (the rest of the episodes from the rest of the seasons) and became addicted. I’m so excited to be a part of the show.”

And that’s not going to end anytime soon. Jones said she will appear in at least some episodes next season. She said her experiences this year have given her some ideas for next season.

“Twenty-three episodes in, I’m thinking ‘Now, what happened when I got up this morning?’ Next season, I’m going to have a big chart on my dressing room mirror with a brief synopsis of every terrible thing that had happened that day.”

To end the town hall meeting, Paris Mayor Sam Tharpe was the final audience member to take the microphone. Rather than asking a question, he thanked Jones.

“Ms. Jones, we want you to know that Paris is very proud of you,” Tharpe said.

“To see what you have achieved and where you are now makes my heart spill out. We love you. Regardless, we’ll be here for you.”

“I have the same thoughts about this town as you just described to me,” Jones said. “The feeling is definitely mutual.”

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