Camryn Jones owes her already impressive acting career to a pageant.
When she was five years old, Jones was named the Tiny Miss Cy-Fair Houston at the 2012 Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce pageant.
“That was the only pageant I have ever done in my entire life. And the prize was acting lessons and getting signed with an agency,” said Jones, who began working with Houston’s Neal Hamil Model and Talent Agency after her win.
Jones, who hails from Cypress, soon started landing acting work on commercials. Then, in 2017, she moved to television shows and movies. These included vocal performances in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and The Boys, as well as recurring starring roles in Perpetual Grace, LTD, Cherish The Day, and Pete the Cat.
This summer, Jones’ career is set to reach new heights when she appears as Tiffany Quilkin in Paper Girls, Amazon Prime’s hugely anticipated adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s comic book series.
The eight-episode first season follows four young girls who are suddenly transported to the future while out delivering papers in the early morning of Halloween 1988. Alongside new friends Erin (Riley Lai Nelet), Mac (Sofia Rosinsky), and K.J. (Gina Strazza), Tiffany must figure out a way to travel back in time while fending off a warring group of time travelers that sent them on this journey.
The Texas Observer spoke with Jones about preparing to star in Paper Girls, what makes the show so prescient, and how being from Houston has inspired her work.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
When you first got involved with Paper Girls, what stood out to you about Tiff?
When I first got the audition and read the storylines and the bio for Tiff, I instantly felt a connection to her—I related to Tiff’s troubles. She is growing up in the 1980s as a Black girl and has to deal with racism. Racism is still prevalent today, and I related to how she handles it. I admired how she carried herself—she just has that spunk. When I got to look at the scripts, I saw that all the girls had substance. They weren’t just talking about boys or fighting. That made me connect to the story itself. Because I love sci-fi, I always have. And I love a dark story.
You’ve previously spoken about the show’s depiction of racism, sexism, and homophobia. How does Paper Girls explore these topics?
At the start of the first episode, Erin and Mr. Johnson have a confrontation, then I come in to help resolve it. I liked how it showcased racism without throwing it in your face. Also, Mac is borderline homophobic and homophobia was very present in the ’80s. I appreciated how carefully the writers handled the topics of racism, sexism, and homophobia, because they’re sensitive topics. It was handled very carefully. All of the actors wanted to make sure it was handled as respectfully as possible. We wanted to make it authentic and not forced. I think we accomplished that.
How did you prepare for the role?
As soon as I got a callback, I bought the first comic book to get a better read on it. I was hooked immediately, mainly thanks to the colors that really made it pop. I wanted to buy the second book the next day. Then, I bought the rest and I read them all in one night. I just really loved the comic. I’m so honored that I was able to adapt it into the show with this amazing cast and crew.
What made the Paper Girls comics so popular?
It felt completely new. There are four female protagonists, so there’s a lot of female power going on. It tackles sensitive subjects while also giving you action and sci-fi. Then the more you get into it, the more you relate and empathize with the characters. It gives you something that you’ve never seen before and then allowed people to get more and more invested in it.
Were you nervous or excited to be starring in the adaptation of such a popular comic book series?
I was very excited, actually. Because there was a built-in fan base. They gave me reassurance. Ever since the show was announced, people were commenting on articles, saying, “I’m so excited. The casting is perfect. You’re going to do a great job.” It was all very endearing to know that people were excited by it, aware of it, and are going to watch it.
The show begins in 1988. What research did you do on the era?
I researched everything. I asked my parents about how the ’80s were. I would research the music. I listened to “When Doves Cry,” “True Colors,” and “Blue Monday.” Then, I would look at the movies. I watched “Coming To America” and “The Last Dragon. I would try to see it from Tiff’s perspective and see things that she would like. It was very cool to be able to look at the ’80s nostalgia vibe.
Talk about meeting your castmates for the first time.
We actually met like our characters. We were asked not to meet each other before shooting. That way, we could grow just like our characters eventually do. I thought that was really cool because we got to really feel like them. Then, as production went on, we’d go out for ice cream every weekend, or do escape rooms, play laser tag, and have sleepovers. We built our familiarity through bonding rather than doing it with traumatic experiences like running through the woods and getting shot at.
How did being from Houston aid in your performance?
I was able to use the relationships I formed [in Houston], and then substitute them for the four characters in the show. That gave the friendships so much more depth and made them more real. Plus, I feel like Texas gives you spunk if you live here long enough. I did have to try not to say “y’all” all of the time, though. Tiff’s not from Texas, so I had to say, “You guys.”
How has being from Houston influenced your work as an actor?
Texas is just so different. It’s given me the spunk, the sass, and a lot of determination. Being from Houston has really led me to speak out for what I want. It’s given me this sense that I can do anything that I put my mind to.
What do you want audiences to take away from Paper Girls?
I want people watching to know that it’s okay to not know everything right now. You’re going to grow up. You’re going to figure it out as you grow. It’s okay to be who you are. We can all grow. We can all evolve. We can all change. But be proud of who you are—always.