Dot-Marie Jones takes a spin in Highway Patrol
Fri. February 9, 2024 by Jerry Nunn
I have played cops many times on television due to my size.
Goodman Theatre test drives Highway Patrol
Goodman Theatre has a brand new beat with Highway Patrol taking a spin inside its Albert Theatre in February. Actress Dana Delany tells a Twitter tale gleaned from real-life occurrences involving a thirteen-year-old fan named Cam portrayed by Thomas Murphy Molony.
Three-time Emmy Award nominee Dot-Marie Jones plays Cam's grandmother Nan in the show. This talented out and proud performer rose to stardom as Coach Beiste on the television series Glee. Producer Ryan Murphy collaborated with her again for American Horror Story: Double Feature and 9-1-1: Lone Star following Glee. Other TV appearances have included Jane the Virgin, Modern Family and The Goldbergs.
Jones talked on the phone during the run of the show about her experiences and achievements.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) How do I know if this is really you on the phone?
DMJ: (Dot-Marie Jones) It’s me! [laughs]
JN: I recognize your voice from our past interview in 2011.
DMJ: Wow, that’s been a minute!
JN: You were in the business 20 years back then so it has been 13 more years now.
DMJ: I am going into my 34th year in October.
DMJ: Thank you.
JN: You didn’t set out in the beginning to have an acting career did you?
DMJ: No. I didn’t start until I was 27 years old.
JN: You are originally from California?
DMJ: Yes, a small town called Hilmar. I went to Modesto Junior College for track and field, then got a full ride to Fresno State where I competed as a shot-putter. I majored in criminology and worked four and a half years in juvenile probation.
A friend of mine who was a bodybuilder told me about some auditions in Los Angeles. She was already on American Gladiators as an alternate, Shirley Eson played Sky. I went to audition for a different show called Knights and Warriors and out of over 200 women I got one of the four spots.
JN: Having a criminal justice background must add to your work on Highway Patrol.
DMJ: Yes and also in a lot of things I do.
JN: Did you ever go on a patrol in real life for research?
DMJ: With criminology, I studied a lot of that in school. I worked in a lockdown facility in a juvenile hall. We dealt with the police every day who were bringing in minors to be detained then we would turn things around to get them home.
I have played cops many times on television due to my size. I was 6’4” at my tallest, but I have had 16 knee surgeries and my back has arthritis so I am right under 6’3” now.
JN: That’s just a bit taller than me. I came to the opening night of Highway Patrol and someone’s cell phone rang during the show. Has there been any other surprises from audiences during the run so far?
DMJ: It is funny you mention that because the other night someone was laughing at everything, even when it wasn’t appropriate. They must have been nervous. It does throw me off a bit because when I said something serious they were laughing. It was not a funny situation. It took me back a second but I just kept going.
That is the big difference between live theater and television. You don’t get any do-overs!
JN: How is it working with Dana Delany onstage?
DMJ: I love her. We have been together for two months from rehearsals to the previews to opening night. We have two weeks to go and I am already sad. That is one of the things about this play, there are only three of us. That means there are a lot of lines to remember, but creates an intimacy within the play for a three-person cast. Thomas is incredible and is local from Chicago.
JN: Is your character of the grandmother based on anyone in your life?
DMJ: No, not really.
JN: She is a standout character right from the beginning.
DMJ: She is so much fun!
JN: In our last interview you mentioned being on Twitter, which ties into this show. What social media do you use these days?
DMJ: I read the news on Twitter and I keep in touch with a few people from different countries on that platform. I don’t care for Facebook. I am on Instagram a lot to post pictures and silly stuff.
JN: Happy birthday to your wife Bridgett this week and you had a birthday during rehearsals.
DMJ: I turned 60!
JN: Is it hard being separated on the road and away from loved ones during these special days?
DMJ: My wife came out for opening night and was here for five days. It is hard because we have animals. We have a person who stays at the house while we are gone, but they can only do so much. This is the longest I have been away from home and it has been over two months now. Thank god for FaceTime where I can feel like I am kind of there!
JN: Do you have time for anything fun while staying in the Windy City?
DMJ: I did the TILT ride at the John Hancock Center. I had some friends in town from Las Vegas and we had a blast. We ate some pizza and it was fun.
JN: How become involved with Highway Patrol in the first place?
DMJ: I was asked to audition and I sent in a tape. The director Mike Donahue and Dana came out to LA to do a second audition. To me, it felt like a workshop because it was amazing.
A few weeks later I found out I would be doing this and here I am.
JN: People need to see you perform live and how you convey this role.
DMJ: Thank you. This is only my third play, so it is very exciting.
JN: Dot, you pull it off like a pro.
DMJ: You are so sweet.
JN: What do you think audience members can take away from Highway Patrol?
DMJ: That certain things can happen to anybody...
JN: I have had similar things happen to me and I can be too trusting.
DMJ: Just when you think you can trust somebody you never know.
JN: It is easy to grow attached to people when we don’t really know them and lonely people look for company, right?
DMJ: Yes, people look for company and connection, but they have to be careful and not their guard down. I don’t think we ever really know about certain people…
JN: That’s a good point. I was at the Goodman Theatre gala back in 2011 when Matthew Morrison headlined and the Glee fans went crazy over him. Do people stop you all the time and call you Coach Beiste?
DMJ: It is amazing that adults and kids are still watching it or rewatching the series. I love it. If it weren’t for fans we wouldn’t have had a job.
JN: I am a fan of your work on the movie Bros. How was that experience?
DMJ: That was so much fun. We shot that in New Jersey and had a blast.
JN: What are you working on after Highway Patrol ends?
DMJ: I have a project that is hopefully being rescheduled. I was supposed to do a film that was sidelined because of the strike. We will see what happens after that!
Highway Patrol comes to a complete stop on February 18, 2024, so speed over to GoodmanTheatre.org for a ticket before it’s too late.