Looking Within Colman Domingo

“I think as artists, as actors, we are always watching. We’re watching heroes. We’re watching ordinary people do extraordinary things every single day. We’re watching horrible people do terrible things and be committed to it…. For me, I didn’t build outside of myself, modeling on somebody who did some vicious things or abusers. I have to look within.” — Colman Domingo, Fresh Air (12/11/23)

In addition to his indelible roles as Ali in Euphoria, Mister in The Color Purple, Victor in Fear the Walking Dead, and Cutler in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (to name just a few of his famous screen characters), Colman Domingo has worked in over 50 regional theater companies across America, and Cal Shakes has featured Domingo in all but three of his on-stage Shakespeare roles. In 2000 he played Lucentio for us in The Taming of the Shrew (dir. Lillian Groag) and Costard in Loves Labour’s Lost (dir. Lisa Peterson); in 2002 he played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (dir. Jonathan Moscone) and Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale (dir. Lisa Peterson); and in 2004 he starred as Lavatch in All’s Well That Ends Well (dir. Lisa Peterson).

Colman Domingo as Lavatch in Cal Shakes’ production of All’s Well That Ends Well (dir. Lisa Peterson)

From the age of 28, Domingo worked almost exclusively as a stage actor. In a three-year crossover period between 1998 and 2000, he also appeared on TV and movie screens. But in his mid-40s he hit a wall, finding that despite his illustrious career–amongst many honors, he’d been nominated for a 2024 Olivier Award for his role as Mr. Bones in The Scottsboro Boys – he was not getting work. In his mid-forties, tired of living in sad little apartments with barely enough to scrape together a living, Domingo made some life changes. First, he left the world of performance to work as a bartender, before making his second big change—hiring an agent with important connections to the film industry, so that his audition tapes were at last seen and actioned: immediately upon engaging his new agent, he was hired for Fear the Walking Dead, which set him back on the map.

2002 Colman Domingo Headshot courtesy of Cal Shakes

“I am proud of being an artist who takes risks, who would walk off a cliff artistically. I won’t settle for commercial reasons.” — Colman Domingo

During the decade since then, Colman Domingo has become enormously successful, culminating in a 2024 Academy Award nomination for his title role as Bayard Rustin in Rustin, an eponymous movie produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground. Colman Domingo is the first openly gay person of color to be nominated for this category.

“Colman is a star. And with everything he does, he shines bright — giving his all while delivering vivid and memorable experiences that stay with us long after we watch. From Broadway to TV to films, Colman’s strong work ethic, talent, and charisma have made him a force in the entertainment industry.” — Michelle Obama

Colman Domingo courtesy of VOGUE.com

Rustin tells the story of real-life civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, now streaming on Netflix. Domingo also stars as Mister in the movie musical version of The Color Purple, produced by Oprah Winfrey and currently playing in movie theaters world-wide. (Cal Shakes audiences will be intrigued to know that the screenplay for this movie was written by the great Marcus Gardley, whose black odyssey premiere at Cal Shakes made all-time box office records in 2017 and again in its re-mount in 2018; and whose adaptation of King Lear, entitled Lear, made box office records once again for us in 2022.)

The decade since Colman Domingo left his journey into bartending to return to the screen has seen big and necessary changes, inspired by a public outcry in 2015 about the lack of any appreciation for diversity in the committee appointed to award the Oscars (#OscarsSoWhite). Even now in 2024 as we look back at the history of the Oscars, out of 3000 winners across all categories only 60 have been Black; amongst whom 5 have won best actor awards; 6 have won best supporting actor awards; and only 1 has won a best actress award. Colman Domingo is helping shift the landscape of who is and should be visible on stage and screen: we are thrilled to see his work so rightly recognized for his Oscar nomination.

Join our friends at the Magic Theatre in cheering on Colman Domingo, Oscar Nominee, Magic Theatre Board Member, and bestie of the Magic Theatre’s Sean San José! Magic Theatre will live-stream the event at a gathering on March 10. Party and mingle! Learn more here: https://magictheatre.org/calendar/oscars

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