For the past two seasons of the hit series “Glee,” Jones has portrayed McKinley High’s football coach Shannon Beiste. It’s a French surname, but Jane Lynch’s arch Sue Sylvester — known for dubbing other characters in the show with derogatory nicknames — loves to give the pronunciation a distinctly American twang.
A California girl, Jones grew up on a dairy farm in Hilmar. A champion weight lifter and arm wrestler by the time she got to Fresno State, she credits early life challenges with giving her the discipline to manage her career today.
“My dad passed when I was 10,” she recalls. “My sister Caroline and I had to milk cows before we went to school and when we got home from school, and feed and take care of all the other animals. My brothers were married and my other sister took care of the house stuff. We all had responsibilities. We didn’t get to go screw around and get in trouble.”
After almost two decades of playing some fairly stereotypical “tough chick” roles, Jones connected with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk for “Pretty/Handsome,” a pilot featuring Joseph Fiennes as a transgender father of two.
“What’s not to love about working with Joseph?” Jones says. “He’s as beautiful inside as he is outside.”
The pilot was not picked up, but she worked with Falchuk and Murphy again on “Nip/Tuck” and then, while never having considered herself a singer, pitched herself for the “Glee” club.
“Ryan decided I could sing,” she laughs. “Never in a million years did I think I would be doing this on television, let alone get paid for it.” In her first season, Jones duetted with Matthew Morrison on “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” and this season she had a Dolly Parton solo with “Jolene.”
Jones has tremendous admiration for her young co-stars. “Those kids work their ass off on that show. If they’re not recording, they’re rehearsing. They’ve trained for years to do what they do. I pretty much got lucky.”
Now that she has some musical experience under her belt, Jones has a singing fantasy. “I got to meet Nancy Wilson of Heart at the Golden Globes. I grew up with their music in high school and today they are still my favorite group. I would love to do one of their tunes. I’m just afraid I couldn’t do them justice.”