"I trust Ryan, so I know it's going to be amazing," Jones tells TVGuide.com. "I didn't know until I got the script and I was reading it and I was like, 'Oh my God! She has cancer, no!'"
However, Jones' cancer fears were quickly quashed. On Friday's episode (9/8c, Fox), after first lying to Sue (Jane Lynch) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) about why she had been missing out on so many football practices, Beiste revealed the truth. She did not have cancer, but she had been diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria (or Gender Identity Disorder) and was in the process of transitioning from a woman to a man. "It's mind-blowing," Jones said of the story line.
For inspiration and guidance, Jones looked to several of her friends who are transgender and also the LGBT community at large, which she has been involved in for years. "I always feel pressure," she says. "It comes from wanting to do the best that I can do and to do it with the utmost respect, especially for the trans community and Ryan and the creators and the writers and to do everything I can to do it right."
Jones also worked closely with the producers to figure out what Beiste will look like when she returns in three weeks after having gone through part of the transformation. "We did a lot of makeup tests to see what stage I would come back as with some facial hair and not with facial hair, and the hair changed into more of a man haircut as opposed to my curly hair that I have," she says. "I just pray that it comes across how it felt: a lot of heart and soul and with the utmost respect."
So far, it seems Jones has gotten the seal of approval from fans, friends and family alike. "I got so many [tweets] it froze my account," she says. "I got a lot of tweets from people in the trans community that were like, 'It's awesome to see someone like me on TV.' ... I was crying."
Jones is not alone in her portrayal of a trans person. Laverne Cox, who is trans in real life, received an Emmy nomination and appeared on the cover of Time magazine last year for her portrayal of transgender inmate Sophia on Orange Is the New Black. Earlier this month, Jeffrey Tambor earned a Golden Globe award for his performance as transgender retiree Maura on Transparent. "I think it's a long time coming," Jones said of the recent flux of trans characters on TV. "Why not tell it? It's real life, and everybody deserves to be heard and to be witnessed. I hate the word accepted because who the hell is anybody to accept anybody else?"
If anything, Jones hopes one day these kinds of stories don't elicit as much attention. "I hope it gets to where it's not this huge topic, that it's everyday life because it is everyday life for a lot of people," she says.
Although Jones will be sad to say goodbye to Beiste later this season when Glee ends in March, she's thankful for the impact her character has had. "It's changed my life on so many levels. being on Glee... it's what you work your whole career for, is to do something substantial that means something that people root for and show up, and Beiste has been amazing."
Watch Beiste's touching speech from last week's episode:
Glee airs Fridays at 9/8c on Fox.