What Does Colman Domingo Think are His Strengths as an Actor?

"I didn’t go to graduate school for acting. I learned everything by being in rooms and watching rehearsals I wasn’t even called for because I was learning," Domingo said.

Colman Domingo | Photo Courtesy of Deposit Photos

Emmy Award-winning actor-writer-director Colman Domingo appeared in five films in 2023, including the musical The Color Purple and the Netflix biographical drama Rustin, for which he received critical acclaim for his roles in both. As a successful actor on both stage and screen as well as a director and writer, Domingo has served as a creative force in many projects. In an interview with Deadline, Domingo shares his perspective on what he learned as an actor from his prosperous career.

Domingo explains that keeping busy both in front and behind the camera (or on and off stage) has always been a facet of his career and his recent prolificity is an extension of that. He says, “I started in this industry as a multi-hyphenate, just trying to create work in San Francisco many years ago in the early ’90s. I took some classes, studied, and started getting cast in things, and my whole career was just about learning while I was in the rooms as a craftsman. I didn’t go to graduate school for acting. I learned everything by being in rooms and watching rehearsals I wasn’t even called for because I was learning. I was watching relationships between directors, actors, playwrights and producers, you name it. And I think that’s been my strength as I look back at my career, it was my conservatory.”

Domingo is openly gay and has portrayed both heterosexual and homosexual characters, and Domingo notes that as an actor he wants to be able to play a range of roles — and discovers his creativity in many avenues. He explains, “As an actor, I want the person to see me as someone who can play a myriad of things. And I think if there was ever any pushback, if anyone knew something about me and thought, ‘Well, I don’t know if he can really go to those places,’ I didn’t know. But I felt like I liberated myself from that sort of criticism or power or anything early on in my career. For an actor to play Bayard Rustin and Mister in The Color Purple simultaneously shows what I always believed my career could be. I don’t think I’ve had any pushback. If I have, I wasn’t aware of it because I’ve been too busy creating my own work and creating my own lane in many ways, which is why I go between being a playwright, screenwriter, singer, dancer, and actor. I always have somewhere to go and create.”

As something of a concluding thought, Domingo later adds, “There’s always a lot of questions about process with actors. I think that characters always stay within you.”

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