Not many people can claim bragging rights to being on the cover of Time magazine, but Weirton native Benjamin Jones can although he's not one to boast.
The 2004 graduate of Weir High School is on the cover of the Aug. 12 issue, part of a two-person photo illustration for the story on "The Childfree Life - When Having it all Means not Having Children."
Shot July 19 on Atlantic Beach, N.Y., the photo shows a bathing suit-clad couple smiling and relaxing in the sand.
While it's an impressive plus on a growing resume of acting and modeling jobs, Jones doesn't dwell on what's given him 15 more minutes of fame as they say.
Asked about his reaction to being on the cover and what response that's brought from his circle of family and friends, Jones replied, "I down play everything. I try not to put jobs on a pedestal of success because I haven't reached the top yet. I don't want my head to go to my....head. Of course, I'm excited about the Time spread and most gigs. I got a lot of attention on FOX news and 'The View,' etc. This may be my first time, though, where people I don't know and old friends I haven't spoken to in years are seeing it and contacting me. I don't know why, but I am still asking them 'How'd you know?'"
Jones is the son of Cynthia Will Lengyel and Tom Lengyel of Weirton and Tim Jones of Fallston, Md., formerly of Paris, Pa. His grandmother is Elva Jones, a resident of Paris, Pa.
He moved to New York City after graduating from Davis & Elkins College in 2008 where he received a bachelor's degree in hospitality and marketing. During his four years in college, Jones performed in college productions as MacDuff in "Macbeth," Froggy in "The Foreigner," Hal Carter in "Picnic," and various roles in "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." He was also a member of the Senator Soccer Team and was featured in marketing materials.
His move to the Big Apple was to pursue acting although his career intention growing up was to be an athlete since he played sports, most notably soccer. Sports therapy was Plan B.
But then there was always that interest in and curiosity about acting, he said, even when he didn't necessarily understand it all.
"I saw people on TV being other people, and I wanted to do that. I studied Jim Carrey and his chameleon-like acting and would mimic a lot of characters in the privacy of my room," Jones said, admitting modeling "was never ever a thought in my head" and "still there is not an ounce of desire to model," ironically.
Jones told people in the industry he wouldn't pursue it, "but if it fell in my lap, I'd do it, which is exactly what happened. Interesting, the life you chase doesn't come as easy as the one you don't care as much about."
Since making New York the state in which he resides, Jones has appeared in several off-Broadway productions, with the majority of his career evolving in film and television. Most recently, he's been seen in "True Crimes" on Discovery Channel, "Mysteries at the Museum" on the Travel Channel and commercials for ESPN Monday Night Football and CNBC. This summer he filmed Discovery ID's third season of "Deadly Sins" and an episode of "Redrum," a murder re-enactment series set to air on Investigation Discovery in January 2014.
While his resume and photos are on his website - benjaminwjones.webs.com - modeling and commercial work that isn't listed includes modeling for Time, Outdoor Life magazine, the New York Times, Doritos, Vogue Italia and other business venues. "Commercially, I've been in spots for Presidente Brie Cheese, PC Richard (airing), ESPN/GMC Monday Night Football, two promos on CNBC, Paragon Sports, Dos Caminos restaurant and many more," he said.
Jones said the Time cover "just came to me without an audition. Time was a wonderful, nice and efficient group of people. They accommodated my schedule and sent me the large prints two weeks later. We had a fun time laughing about the situation the article spoke about. We were on the beach before the sun came up, which is something everyone should see. As the day went on, it got hotter. But we all worked quickly enough to finish shooting by about 12:30 p.m. The photographer, Randal Ford, was young and lively. I became more interested in the shoot when I learned Randal shoots similar to Norman Rockwell. I see good things for Mr. Ford."
With a Time magazine cover under his belt, Jones will be in another magazine due out in September. Like the Time magazine job, Jones said he didn't audition for the Outdoor Life hunting and wildlife magazine photo shoot either. Although this one isn't a cover, Jones is in a photo accompanying an article on being your own hunter/gatherer. It was taken July 24.
"The production was much more simple, personal and quick. It was shot at a pristine members-only hunting lodge in upstate New York," said Jones, who last year was cast for a photo spread in Vogue Italia featuring Linda Evangelista, a Canadian model featured on more than 600 magazine covers.
Given that work in the acting industry often comes in spurts, Jones said for the past two months he has worked a full-time midnight-shift job.
"Earlier this year was quite slow, so in order to keep up, I got a midnight job to allow for daytime acting gigs which has been a blessing and a curse," he said.
"Acting and modeling is a full-time job, because you're always working to get the next one. It's the only business I can think of where when you're employed, you're looking for another job every time," Jones said, describing a "typical day" as both "ridiculous" and "never the same."
"Sometimes I have an audition I must tape myself and send in, others I go to the casting directors' studios and show my face. This time of year is now super busy which counter-balances the slow beginning," Jones said. He prepares for a day's auditions the night before, going from one to the next in between checking e-mails and eating.
Variety is what he enjoys most about his work.
"Yesterday I am a model, today a football player, tomorrow I could be someone who owns an island," he said. "Personally, I liked doing this because it helped me learn about myself through reading other people's life stories. Also, I'm not good with words, but I get a great release in saying what I want to say when those words are clearly written for me to express as my own."
The need to have discipline in such a craft pursuit is an understatement, according to Jones. "It's an endurance run to the top. Ashton Kutcher said, 'Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.' Period. It is physically tiring when running to auditions and repeat takes on set. Mentally, it's a workout for the brain to memorize so much. Even emotionally, tapping into the truth and feeling it can be fun and exhausting," he said in sharing a story he heard of a journalist doing a bio on a theater actor.
"The actor came off stage at the end of the first act and was breathing heavy and sweating buckets. The journalist said, 'Why are you breathing so fast? What's wrong?' to which the actor replied, 'I have been acting!'" Jones said.
As a new school year unfolds where high school and college seniors contemplate their professional futures, acting "is a business, unfortunately. It's not all play. But don't let people take advantage of you and your craft. Remember that actors created this art, not the producers. It's your business," he said.
In offering advice, Jones said, "It took time for me learn, but remember to relax, be honest, and be confident in yourself and what you do. Patience is virtuous. So when it happens, be ready because it can and it will. No need to dwell; stay positive and positive results will come," Jones said.
But the bottom line, he added, is "Oh yeah, and work hard."
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)