The Star Being Serenaded by Shania Twain and in a Wild Sex Scene With Jeff Daniels

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Mark Hill / Netflix
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Mark Hill / Netflix

Who among us hasn’t wanted to sing along to Shania Twain’s classic “You’re Still the One?”

It is something Serena Croker, played by actress Sarah Jones, finds herself doing while slow dancing with her property tycoon husband, Charlie Croker (Jeff Daniels), as the legendary singer serenades the couple at Charlie’s lavish 60th birthday party at the start of the six-part Netflix limited series, A Man in Full.

“That moment was a bit of a highlight of my career thus far,” Jones tells The Daily Beast Obsessed. Jones didn’t have much time to prepare for the encounter: Twain’s cameo was kept under wraps, and even now, she still has a hush-hush mindset. “I'm so glad you brought up Shania because even at this point, I’m like, ‘Am I allowed to talk about Shania yet?’” she says.

Jones hadn’t seen the episode when we spoke, so she wasn’t sure if they had gone with her choice for Serena to sing along, which came about during rehearsal. “The thing you don’t think about when Shania is singing it live and when they’ve got the playback going [is that] it’s easy to sing along while you're dancing,” she says. “The trick is, they’ve got the camera on you, and there’s no playback, and there’s 300 background actors just watching what you’re doing. That was where I was like, ‘Oh, why did I make that choice?’ But Jeff loved it.”

A photo including Christian Clemenson, Sarah Jones, and Evan Roe in the series Man in Full on Netflix

(L to R) Christian Clemenson as Stroock, Sarah Jones as Serena Croker, Evan Roe as Wally Croker

Mark Hill / Netflix

Although I can practically hear Jones cringe on the other end of the line, it is an endearing moment that adds intimacy to a party scene crowded with hundreds of party guests, captured by director Regina King (who helmed three of the series’ six episodes). Besides, Twain's music is so deep in Jones’ bones, she couldn’t help but sing. “She’s just such a cool woman. So is Regina. Same with Diane [Lane], Lucy [Liu], and Chanté [Adams], to be with the caliber of performers and artists on that show.”

The whole sequence was surreal for Jones. Not only was Twain’s record-breaking album Come On Over released when Jones was in high school, but so was Daniels’ Dumb and Dumber: “If you told me [when I was in high school] that I’d be slow dancing with Jeff Daniels singing ‘You're Still the One’ while Shania Twain is not 10 feet away from me singing it live, I would have said, ‘Whatever you’re smoking, I need some of that. Because that’s some good shit,’” Jones says. “It was one of those moments like, ‘What is my life right now?’”

Having a bonafide star as the musical entertainment quickly establishes how wealthy Atlanta real estate mogul Charlie is—or rather, it gives an impression of how much money Charlie has. Adapted by David E. Kelley from Tom Wolfe’s best-selling 1998 novel, A Man in Full portrays how one man’s sudden bankruptcy threatens his sizable empire—and ego—and how those who seek to capitalize on this turning of the tide are giddy to take advantage. A meeting the day after his blowout bash sets the wheels in motion, and his second wife, Serena, helps bring the temperature down when the men in the room start dick-measuring.

Jeff Daniels’ ‘A Man in Full’ Is Swinging With Big Dick Energy

Jones’s performance as Serena is pivotal in revealing that a fiery pistol of a man needs a strong wife by his side. The day after the blowout, Shania-serenaded birthday bash, Charlie’s adversary tells him that he owes the company $800 million, and the time to pay up is now—he owes other lenders half a billion. Charlie’s rage is like machine gun fire, and he’s especially furious that Harry (Bill Camp) revealed this news in front of Serena. “Maybe next time, leave the missus behind in the trophy case,” Harry replies. However, Serena doesn’t stuff her Louis Vuitton luggage with everything of value from their mansion, bailing at the first sign of trouble. No, she sticks around to strategize the next moves.

In a ranging conversation, Jones talks about thwarting stereotypes about Southern women, filming a salacious sex scene with Daniels, and why her recent red-carpet look isn’t all that courageous.

About That Sex Scene...

If you have watched TV during the last 20 years, you have likely seen Jones. Most recently on Apple TV+ alt-history space drama For All Mankind, she played fan-favorite astronaut Tracy Stevens, and her exit from the series is one of the most memorable (and devastating) of the streaming era.

A lot has changed in Jones’ career since she first worked with the creator of A Man in Full on the short-lived series The Wedding Bells in 2007. “The first series I was cast in that made it to series was a David E. Kelley show, so I was familiar with how he worked, and he is so brilliant—his brain doesn't shut off ever,” she says

Being able to trust Kelley, as well as King and Daniels, was key for this series. In Episode 1, for example, Jones and Daniels filmed a steamy post-birthday party sex scene.

It’s a scene that shows the couple is in sync and that the sex isn’t just about Charlie’s gratification. It also points to how Charlie still wants to show he is a man in his prime, even if he needs a helping hand to get, um “there.” No, not the little blue pill kind of assistance, but handles on the wall and foot supports. Why? So he can still fuck his wife against a wall rather than in their bed, naturally. This is a couple who still like to mix it up.

What is shooting a sex scene that is so, let’s say…off the wall like? “Regina made it very clear that she wanted to have a private discussion and space for the three of us to talk it out, and then we'd relay it to the intimacy coordinator, and the intimacy coordinator was good about that,” says Jones.

A photo including Jeff Daniels in the series Man in Full on Netflix

Jeff Daniels as Charlie Croker

Mark Hill / Netflix

Jones says she has been lucky that “scene partners in intimate scenes have been very respectful” throughout her career, but there have been times when it is less clear what the director is looking for. This was not the case when collaborating with King. “When it came to the sexually intimate stuff, she didn't overshoot it. She was very specific about what shot she wanted so she could put that together in editing, and that's what she got,” Jones says. “It was so methodical. That was something I really appreciated because I think sometimes scenes can be shot where you're just going, and you don't know when they're going to call cut.”

More Than a Trophy Wife

Early on in the Man in Full production, Daniels told Jones that he would play Charlie “big” (and boy, does he mean that), so Jones felt safe taking swings with her choices. “At the risk of sounding like I'm over-praising Jeff Daniels, it's really not possible. Working with him was one of those surreal moments for me, where it’s like, ‘Wow, I'm being paid to participate in a masterclass,” she says. “To observe it, to witness it, but then I also get to be a part of it.’ Not only was Jeff brilliant in his work, but he’s so encouraging and motivating and shows up to play.”

In the first episode, the 28-year-old Serena accompanies Charlie to the bombshell bank meeting dressed in a business Barbie matching pink jacket and dress. Serena and Charlie both know the types of comments made about their relationship, and Serena doesn’t shy away from dressing the part. “I’m born and raised in the South, and I wanted to approach Serena as a whole human being rather than a caricature,” says Jones.“She's aware of what people are gonna say about her. She’s aware if she dresses a certain way how people might react, what kind of assumptions they'll make about her, or how will they treat her. I think that's something that a lot of women can relate to.

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One element Jones wanted to avoid was the gold digger archetype because it has been done ad nauseam. “I wanted to tell the story that Serena actually loves this man. Sometimes, there are partnerships that no one can explain. But they work, they’re special, and they’re important to the two people involved in that partnership—not just romantic,” she says. For this to ring true, Daniels had to be on board, which he was. “He leaned into love, as opposed to ‘This is my piece.”

A Red Carpet Message

Serena uses fashion as a language in A Man in Full, and Jones understands the power of a sartorial statement off-screen as well. At the show’s premiere, Jones wore a custom white dress by the Palestinian brand Trashy Clothing, with a temporary “Ceasefire Now” tattoo across her shoulder and arm.

“On my end, yes, I’ve gotten feedback [saying], ‘That was really brave. That was really courageous,’” Jones says. “For me, a message of humanity and solidarity doesn’t feel all that courageous. However, if there was anything politically attached to it, it would be the fact that our Congress seems to be hard of hearing what its constituents want in a lot of areas.”

“My grandfathers didn’t risk their lives for me to stay quiet when I have the opportunity to exercise my First Amendment rights while I still got ’em,” she adds.

When I spoke to Jones a week after the premiere, protests across college campuses continued (“I'm so proud of the students in this country, doing what they’re doing), and the actress reiterated that using what platform she does have is not on par with what others are doing right now. “In comparison to the people that have come before me, the people out right now really putting themselves on the line, it didn’t feel all that courageous.”

Jones emphasizes that while she hasn’t received a negative response so far, this “Ceasefire Now” message was her choice alone: “I will say, as well, that I have not received any disrespect or discouragement. Quite the opposite, in terms of people I’ve worked with on the series or from Netflix. At the same time, this was my decision, so I don’t want to put it on anyone else, including Netflix. I’m appreciative that Netflix allowed the space for that because you have heard about backlash or certain people in our industry being told to keep their mouths shut. Netflix didn’t do that.”

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