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Rahne Jones, a UMBC alumna, is currently working on the second season of The Politician. Photo courtesy of Maryann Raposo.

UMBC alumna stars in new Netflix series

When Rahne Jones transferred to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2006, she never could have predicted the trajectory that her career would take over the course of the next 10 years.

Namely, that she would eventually star in a Netflix TV series alongside stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange and Broadway’s Ben Platt. 

During her time at UMBC, Jones didn’t study acting or theatre; instead, she majored in English on the communication and technology track, and was unsure what she wanted to do with her degree. She considered a career in journalism and even spent some time working at The Retriever (then The Retriever Weekly) as an Arts and Entertainment writer; during her tenure she wrote about Baltimore’s Great Blacks in Wax Museum, a T-Pain Quadmania concert and the audition process for “America’s Next Top Model.”

Ultimately, though, she ended up working in the government when she graduated, a job she found through one of her former basketball coaches. Though she worked for the Department of Homeland Security for four and a half years, she didn’t enjoy the work; “I’m a creative person,” Jones explained, and the job wasn’t cultivating that. “At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it wasn’t that.” 

Though she knew she would miss the benefits and security of her job in Homeland Security, she took a major leap and decided to move to New York City. At that time, she had never acted before. She says that she “was always a lover of watching other people perform” and that she admired how vulnerable a person had to be to put their art on display for the public. Still, stage fright prevented her from trying it for herself.

In New York, however, Jones finally got involved with a local community theatre, AfterWork Theatre, which she described as an “open community of friendship and expression” where there was “no real pressure, just people trying to have fun with it.” There, she was cast in her first ever production, Stephen Schwartz’s “Godspell,” in which she played a gender-bent version of Judas.

The experience was revelatory for Jones. After “Godspell” closed, Jones realized, “I’d love to do this professionally. I’m thinking, ‘I’ll do commercials, I’ll do whatever, I just want to be a working actor.’”

But, from there, things moved much faster than Jones anticipated. Soon after, she got a manager despite her sparse resume, and her manager subsequently got her the audition for “The Politician.” After callbacks (“O Magazine” reports that Jones was the only person called back for her character, Skye), Jones got the part, and within a week, she was flying to Los Angeles to begin working on the show.

Few, if any, other actors have the opportunity to spend their first professional gig being directed by someone with the star power of Ryan Murphy and acting alongside Broadway and film veterans. It’s no wonder, then, that once the excitement of getting cast wore off, she grew nervous. “You’re riding on cloud nine when you first get the notification that you’re in the show. You’re like ‘yay!’” Jones says. “And then you have a period of ‘oh no!’” She had to learn the ins and outs of TV production on the job, but says that it helped that she wasn’t afraid to ask questions when she needed to.

Of course, becoming a celebrity overnight certainly has its perks. Before the show even hit the small screen, Ben Platt took her backstage after a Barbara Streisand concert at Madison Square Garden. “We ended up going into a room that was probably the most famous room I’ve ever been in,” Jones says, explaining that the Clintons, Whoopi Goldburg, Billy Crystal and Mariah Carey were just a handful of the famous faces present. “That was a moment where I was like, ‘Okay this world is different.’”

So, what’s next for this UMBC alum? Currently, the cast of “The Politician” is focused on filming season two, but Jones says she’d love to get the opportunity to do a feature film as her next project. Of the sorts of parts she’d like to get cast as in the future, she says, “I would love to be a superhero. I would love to be a romantic love interest in a film. I want to be what everybody else gets to be without being the token black person or the token gay person.”