Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman. Credit: Jessica Brooks/NBC
Actress Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks & Recreation) is stepping behind the scenes on her latest project: She’s executive producing the new NBC romantic comedy A to Z, which stars Jewish actor Ben Feldman (Mad Men) and Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother). The daughter of music mogul Quincy Jones (not Jewish) and Jewish actress Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad), Jones identifies with her Jewish side.
“My mom’s Jewish and it’s very important to me culturally,” she says, but she‘s always been interested in learning about other faiths. “I studied religion in college,” says the Harvard graduate. “I was in a Christian choir in high school and went to a meditation ashram. I love the spirituality of any religion. I have some issues with the side effects of organized religion. I tend to lean toward anything that promotes ‘love thy neighbor.’”
Growing up, Jones had “all types of friends—Jewish, black, Asian. I went to a Montessori school where everyone had different religions and cultural backgrounds,” she says. In her junior year of college, she dated a Conservative Jewish guy and socialized with a group of Jewish students. “I gravitated toward that culturally and religiously, which was cool, because I didn’t have a bat mitzvah. I left Hebrew school when I was 10. Being bi-racial and Jewish, I’m kind of given permission to explore all the cultures that go with that,” she says. “But I really liked the cultural and familial side of Judaism. It was always the most comfortable place for me.”
Jones always celebrated the High Holy Days and Passover. When she was 10, “I remember finding the afikomen and getting $100, which at the time was a ridiculous amount of money. But I got candy too and was way happier about that.”
In 2012, Jones participated in an episode of the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? which traced her Jewish ancestry. As a result, “A lot of my family has come out of the woodwork. I’ve met a bunch of my cousins in London and Ireland on my mom’s side, and it’s been really nice, actually. It was such a great opportunity, so cool.”
Currently, in addition to her producing duties, she’s getting ready to return to acting in the TBS sitcom Angie Tribeca. Directed by Steve Carell, who produces with his wife Nancy, the series focuses on a bunch of eccentric LAPD detectives, with Jones in the title role. Her parents will appear in an episode in cameo roles. “We put them in golf clothes,” she says. “I don’t think my dad has ever played golf in his life. He was driving a golf cart and he doesn’t drive. They were so sweet and cool about it.”