Colman Domingo’s star power is ‘a long time coming’
“It’s been a long time coming.”
That’s how Colman Domingo sees his recent surge across screens big and small and people “finally” being “hip to exactly what I’m doing,” the “Fear the Walking Dead” star and director, 51, said over Zoom.
The past year alone has seen the Tony-nominated “Scottsboro Boys” star dispensing timely knowledge and warmth as a recovered drug addict in the Peabody-nominated “Euphoria” special and playing the trombone whilst defending his religious convictions in the Oscar-winning adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” racking up awards nominations along the way, and entering the “Twilight Zone.”
“I’ve been working for, what, 31 years in this industry? And I’ve been carving out a space for myself, basically,” said Domingo. “Nothing was given to me, and I had to really create work when there was a lack of work.”
From the jump, the writer-actor-director — whose play “Dot” was just greenlit for a television adaptation on AMC Networks’ streamer — has known there would be times his career opportunities “would be lean and times when I would fully thrive.
“There’s different versions of me and ... my audiences know me from very different things,” said Domingo. “And now finally, people are understanding the container that it’s all in and they’re not trying to, I don’t know, place it in a little box.”
Among his eclectic highlights are two recent releases: “Zola,” in which he plays a uniquely disarming pimp, and “The God Committee,” which sees Domingo as a priest bearing witness to life and death decisions.
“I’m doing the thing, to be very honest, that I think that you seek out when you’re a younger actor, which is about having agency in this industry,” said the “If Beale Street Could Talk” star. “I do things that I only care about, you know?”
So what is it that attracts him to a role? “I think it’s gotta scare me a little bit. It’s gotta make me feel like I might fail,” Domingo laughed. “In a strange way, that’s when I thrive. Otherwise I feel like it doesn’t (matter). It’s gotta matter. Maybe that’s it.”
What the “Chicago” actor most cares about though is “being a creator,” his favorite version of himself.
“I like creating worlds. And whether that’s as a writer or director, or even like producing,” said the “Wild with Happy” actor and scribe. “I love being an actor, but I don’t necessarily have to be on stage or in front of the camera all the time. I love putting it together. ... I’m somebody who throws a good party, and I think that’s the key to any good creator.”
When directing theater, Domingo says he opts to fade away during previews as he’s “not supposed to be ham-fisted about this idea in my head. It has to live and breathe in you or it dies.”
Artistic integrity, he says, shouldn’t stop with a fan favorite project — even one with a “huge, rabid fan base” like that of the “Dead” universe. Domingo pointed to “Euphoria” writer-creator Sam Levinson’s remarks at the season two table read.
The “Malcolm & Marie” filmmaker acknowledged the show’s “beautiful, successful” first season, and told everyone to “forget it” along with fans’ attachment, recalled the “Candyman” actor.
“That’s how it was created before, so you have to trust that formula,” said Domingo. “Basically what we’re saying is, don’t be a whore (laughs).”
Even with such a wide range of projects under his ever-stylish belt, the “Assassination Nation” — also a Levinson production — actor does have one he holds closest to his heart: Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.”
“I really feel like that was a film that really had its purest intentions,” said Domingo, acknowledging the film’s central message continued timeliness. “It really showed me what the power of what we do and how we do it can be when you put it all in there.”
Domingo recalled a “legends brunch” hosted by producer Oprah Winfrey — with guests like John Lewis, as well as Abernathy’s wife, Juanita, an activist in her own right, and Quincy Jones — that felt like “a handoff."
“It felt like everyone was all behind one great purpose, which was tell this story to promote change in our world.”
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