Tank Jones and his 10-year-old son, Raejon Jones, have a special bond.
The Chandler residents share notes on acting and stories about the set.
Raejon appeared in three episodes of ABC’s “Big Sky” as Kai Dewell, while his dad stars in “Paul’s Promise,” with Linda Purl, Nancy Stafford, Ryan O’Quinn, Shari Rigby, Josef Cannon and Dean Cain. Tank coincidentally plays a character named Tank — Tank Lipkin — in the film.
“He and I have done seven projects together as father and son, but each film hasn’t been father and son,” Tank says.
“We did an episode of ‘Big Sky’ together. I love watching him grow. As a dad, getting the chance to act with him, we’re building memories that, hopefully, he’ll have for the rest of his life.”
“Paul’s Promise” is the true story of Paul Holderfield, a bigoted firefighter turned pastor, who started one of the first integrated churches in the American South.
In the 1950s, during the Little Rock Central High School crisis, Holderfield was a North Little Rock fireman and remembers turning his back on a Black man, hoping he would not recognize him, but he did. His childhood best friend Jimmy Lipkin approached Paul for a handshake, but Holderfield put his hands in his back pockets and refused to shake Lipkin’s hand.
Holderfield later told his wife, Barbara, that he would never treat a human being that way again. Ultimately, Holderfield started Friendly Chapel and F.L.A.M.E. (Feeding and Loving All Men Equally) to help others and spent the rest of his life giving back to anyone in need.
Dedicated to meeting people’s needs, Holderfield built an organization that has been serving others for 30-plus years, meeting the nutritional, emotional, physical, spiritual and health needs of others.
Upon reading the script, Tank knew this was the right project for him.
“They sent me the script and I was reading it at home,” he says.
“I got up and started walking around like I was a crazy person saying, ‘Nope, nope, nope.’ My wife was looking at me like I was crazy.
“I liked the script but the relationship between my character and his brother, the way they had written it, it couldn’t fly. This is late-1960s Little Rock, Arkansas. Everybody in the film is white, except me, my brother and his wife.
“We were fighting with each other. There had to be some kind of brotherly dynamic there, so people can see in these types of households that there’s still brotherly love there.”
He told producers Ryan O’Quinn, Michael Davis and Heather O’Quinn that there needed to be changes. They agreed.
“They were very gracious and very happy that I cared enough about the production to bring that concern to them,” he says.
“I worked with somebody else, and we wrote a scene that is included in the movie. It’s the scene of my brother and I on the porch talking to one another. People have said it’s one of their favorite — if not their favorite — scene in the film.
“Kudos to them for listening to me. At this point in my career, I don’t take every acting job. It has to be something I feel I can sink my teeth into. I have to be able to bring something to the table.”
The characters he’s considering must have meaning, too. Tank knew he accomplished that with “Paul’s Promise,” which was executive produced by Michael Ilitch Jr. and Nick Ilitch. The Ilitch family owns the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, among other holdings, and founded Little Caesars Pizza in Detroit.
“With a movie like this, I knew it was going to be shown in multiple churches around the country,” says Tank, a born-again Christian. “It’s important to see that type of brotherly dynamic so people understand we’re all human.
“I enjoyed working on it. I enjoyed working with the people on the film, Linda Paul (Minnie Holderfield), Nancy Stafford (Judy), Josef (Cannon), who plays my older brother, Jimmy. We had some wonderful times on the film. It’s a true story and I love doing true stories.”
As for Cain, he was a little confused by Tank’s behavior. He’s not a traditional method actor, but if he’s to have a confrontation with a character, he won’t connect with the person.
“I will do my best to avoid them,” he says.
“When we met, he came up to me when we were about to shoot. He looked at me and said, ‘Hi. I’m Dean.’ I didn’t shake his hand. He was like, ‘OK.’ We did the scene. It was very intense but it came off really nicely.
“When we finished, I said, ‘I promise you, I’m a nice guy.’ Everybody busted out laughing. The producers, they all know me. Dean’s a professional. He laughed about it. He thought it was funny. The next film we worked on, we laughed about it, too.”
But the funny stories about Cain do not end there. Tank and Raejon were working on a Christmas film with Cain when Raejon had a question.
“He comes to me, my son, and says, ‘Dad, why does Mr. Dean look like Superman?’” recalls the ASU graduate with a laugh.
“I thought that was so hilarious. I said, ‘Tell him what you just told me.’ His response was, ‘Oh, bless your heart. I have to take your son home.’ He told him about ‘Lois & Clark.’ The irony was great. Dean is cool.”
The Illinois native has more than 20 movie credits to his name and also toured as a hip-hop artist.
“I still write but I don’t know if I’ll ever record anything,” he says. “I may just put out songs online and just have them live there. I probably will never tour again, like I had before. I have songs that I’ve written that some have said I should record. We’ll see. It’s not on the horizon as of yet. It is a thought.”