From The Office to BlackAF, These Are Rashida Jones’ Best TV Roles
From ‘The Office’ to BlackAF, These Are Rashida Jones’ Best TV Roles
Actor Rashida Jones has had a prolific career. Not only has she risen to prominence in front of the camera, but she is also a writer (Toy Story 4, the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”), director (the documentary Quincy, about her father, Quincy Jones), and producer (Hot Girls Wanted and its spinoff docuseries, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On).
Now, Rashida Jones stars in, executive produces, and directs on the new Netflix sitcom BlackAF.
She portrays Joya Barris in the series, which was created by Kenya Barris (who plays a version of himself). In preparation, take a look back at some of Jones’ best comedic TV roles.
Jones is the only The Office cast member with a full-season tenure to make the jump to Parks and Recreation.
The series, which was initially planned to be a “spin-off” of The Office, took on a life all its own, running for seven seasons.
Jones portrayed Ann Perkins, a nurse who befriends local government worker Leslie Knope in the pilot.
Jones remained on as a main cast member for almost the entire season run, departing midway through season 6.
Her character married Rob Lowe’s Chris Traeger, and the two leave to raise their child elsewhere. The actors later return for the series finale.
Jones crossed into leading woman territory as the titular character in the comedy Angie Tribeca. The series, which is a parody of the kind of procedurals she got her start on, aired on TBS for four seasons.
From The Office to BlackAF, These Are Rashida Jones’ Best TV Roles
Created by Steve Carell and his wife, Nancy, Jones also served as a producer. Angie is a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, leading the RHCU (Really Heinous Crimes Unit).
The over-the-top ridiculousness of the show is only matched by the incredible guest stars it brought in, including Jones’ past co-stars like Adam Scott and Ed Helms.
Before she played his wife, Jones had a guest role in another show created by Barris, Black-ish. This series is also loosely based on Barris’ own life.
Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) is inspired by Barris’ ex-wife, Rania Barris. The character has two siblings, one of whom is her younger sister Santamonica, played by Jones in two episodes.
Santamonica is portrayed as a bit more relaxed in morals and temperament than her big sister. Jones’ portrayal was the basis for the younger version of the character, who appears on the Black-ish spinoff, Mixed-ish, about Rainbow’s childhood.
‘blackAF’ Review: Kenya Barris Creates His Own ‘Curb’ With Help from Rashida Jones
“Win. Win, win, win-win. Fuck everything else, win, win, win, win.” Those are the lyrics of Jay Rock‘s “Win,” which is the theme song to Kenya Barris‘ new Netflix series #blackAF.
It’s an apt choice, as that’s what the show’s characters care about most. Winning. Winning at life. Winning arguments. Winning attention and affection.
blackAF finds Barris playing a fictional version of himself, the obscenely rich creator of the Peabody Award-winning ABC series black-ish, and the father of six very well-cast children.
He’s also married to longtime sweetheart Joya (Rashida Jones), a lawyer who supported Kenya for years while he fought to make it as a writer and gave up her career to focus on her family.
These days, however, her focus has been slipping — something Kenya doesn’t mind pointing out, nor is he shy about reminding everyone that he’s the family’s sole breadwinner now.
The series is an odd but entertaining mix of the traditional family sitcom, a talking-head documentary in the vein of The Office, and heavy-handed history lesson, as each episode, features a mini monologue about black history, which is very clear on Barris’ mind here, as evidenced by episode titles such as “Because of Slavery,” “Because of Slavery Too,” and “Hard to Believe, but Still Because of Slavery.” It’s kind of a lazy gag, but it also emphasizes Kenya’s worldview.
Barris’ ancestors suffered for hundreds of years, and he’s ready to enjoy the high life, not only because he earned it the hard way, but to show people in his community that they don’t have to be a rapper, an athlete or a drug dealer to rock a gold chain.
That chain he’s so fond of represents the success that Barris has coveted since he was a young boy when he watched those kinds of people flash their jewelry as a status symbol. He’s none of those things, just a talented TV writer, but that perception of success is still important to him.
Though #blackAF is presented in a way similar to The Office, since it’s effectively a documentary that Kenya’s second-eldest daughter Drea (Iman Benson) is making as part of her application to NYU film school — in theory giving her final cut of #blackAF — the comedy classic it reminded me of most was Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Barris subbing in for Larry David.
Of course, Larry has eccentric quirks in place of children, but the two shows definitely share some DNA, mainly in how their creators see the world just a little bit differently than most people.
Barris isn’t as naturally engaging an onscreen presence as David, nor does he have the same underdog spirit that makes you root for him, but there’s a weariness to his soft-spoken shtick that helps make him relatable as a put-upon TV dad.
Newcomer Benson, who some viewers will recognize from Netflix’s Alexa & Katie, steps into her own here, and it’s clear that she’s a budding young star with strong comic timing.
Having said that, Jones is the clear standout here, and she revels in the opportunity to be a “bad mom,” but not in a cartoonish way like the Mila Kunis movies.
Joya is very self-involved, and not only is she just about as far from Jones’ Karen Filippelli as it gets, but I appreciated the three-dimensionality with which the character was created.
Jones deserves to be in the Emmy conversation for her work here, as she makes bold choices and isn’t afraid to let Joya come off as negligent, because at the end of the day, you know she’ll be a fierce mama bear when she needs to be.
An episode where Joya accompanies Kenya to buy drugs is particularly funny.
When Barris isn’t being interviewed by his daughter and avoiding his other children, he’s bossing around his schlubby assistant Danny, played by Gil Ozeri from Netflix’s Big Mouth and Uncorked, and leading a room full of kiss-ass sitcom writers, including The Office alum Angela Kinsey.
After Entourage, which #blackAF vaguely resembles from time to time, I think it’s proven that everyone loves a harangued assistant, and while the scenes set in the writer’s room may come off as inside baseball to some, that’s the only kind of baseball I enjoy.
If you like Mindy Kaling‘s movie Late Night, you’ll enjoy the workplace scenes quite a bit. In fact, Barris’ uses the writer’s room as a place to introduce several ideas about today’s racial climate, a subject that the show has plenty to say about.
For example, when Kenya sees a movie made by a rising black director, he hates it and is stunned to see his community support it blindly, effectively questioning what has happened to standards.
Barris bravely gets some of his best-known friends to discuss this pressing cultural issue, friends like Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Will Packer, and Tim Story.