Well known as a premiere theater actress and an advocate for gay rights, Cherry Jones has also appeared in a number of high-profile films. Born and raised in Tennessee, Jones headed north to study drama at Carnegie Mellon University. A founding member of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, Jones spent the early years of her professional career performing in a wide range of plays. After she relocated to New York, Jones acted in numerous Broadway productions, including Angels in America, The Night of the Iguana, Our Country's Good, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. Her performance as the lonely heroine in the 1995 production of The Heiress earned Jones several awards, including the Tony.
Even as she became a theater star, Jones added TV and films to her repertoire in the 1980s, with supporting roles in the TV docudrama Alex: The Life of a Child (1986) and Paul Schrader's Light of Day (1987). Though drama was her primary forte, Jones also appeared in the hit comedies Housesitter (1992) and A League of Their Own (1992). After several years of stage work, Jones returned to films in the independent black comedy Julian Po (1997), and Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer (1998). Jones brought an air of forceful integrity to her roles as the embattled head of the Federal Theater Project in Tim Robbins' 1930s tapestry Cradle Will Rock (1999) and as one of the chemical contamination victims in Steven Soderbergh's Erin Brockovich (2000).
Unabashedly out since her professional debut at age 21, Jones made theater history of sorts when she thanked her same-sex domestic partner from the podium when she won her Tony for The Heiress. Jones added her voice to Out of the Past (1998), a documentary about the struggles of the gay rights movement throughout U.S. history, and co-starred in the TV movie about lesbian parents, What Makes a Family (2001).
Continuing to take smaller roles in big movies between her stage work, Jones followed Erin Brockovich with a turn as one of the residents on land forced to come to grips with the tragic effects of The Perfect Storm (2000). Back on summer movie screens two years later in two heavily hyped releases, Jones was one of the many oddly monikered women populating the eccentric female universe in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002). In M. Night Shyamalan's spiritual science fiction hit Signs (2002), Jones quietly shined with her gentle yet no-nonsense performance as the local cop who gets involved in teasing out the meaning of the crop circles in anguished father Mel Gibson's corn field. Both Soderbergh and Shyamalan would continue to feature her such films as Ocean's Twelve and The Village, as Jones continued to rack up acclaim for her stage work, including a Best Actress Tony in 2005 for John Patrick Shanley's Doubt. In 2007 Fox announced that Jones would be portraying the first female president on the seventh season of 24.
In 2009 she would play a first lady embodying Eleanor Roosevelt in the biopic Amelia, and had a busy 2011 appearing in Jodie Foster's The Beaver as well as Garry Marshall's ensemble romantic comedy New Year's Eve. She returned to TV in 2012 with a role in the series Awake.