Navigating Challenges: Colman Domingo Discusses Netflix Biopic 'Rustin' and Addresses Speculations of Turmoil on 'Euphoria' Set

The mention of the library sparks a palpable enthusiasm in Colman Domingo. Standing in the corridor of a central London hotel, the 53-year-old actor, known for his roles in Fear the Walking Dead and Euphoria, eagerly seeks refuge from the private rooms that surround us. For Domingo, libraries hold a special place—where his love for storytelling first blossomed, setting the course for a career in entertainment. Reflecting on his early creative endeavors, he recalls, "I'd make little film strips and things like that… the library's where you could always find me."

In town to promote his latest film, "Rustin," recently released on Netflix, Domingo's eyes light up with passion. The biopic unfolds against the backdrop of the iconic 1963 March on Washington, with Domingo delivering a riveting performance as Bayard Rustin—an influential activist whose vital role in the civil rights movement was historically overlooked. When questioned about this omission, Domingo corrects, "Not under-acknowledged. Erased." He attributes Rustin's neglect to societal expectations of presenting a monolithic image during the 1950s and 1960s, particularly for the Black community, emphasizing Rustin's status as an outlier in every sense.

Seated comfortably in a corner of the library room, Domingo, a master of his craft, orders a single espresso. With arms folded, he discusses Rustin, drawing parallels to his own experiences as an openly gay individual married to producer Raúl Domingo since 2014. Despite the shared identity, Domingo emphasizes the distinction, remarking, "If people know that we're both openly gay, they think there must clearly be some part of me in him. But I had to build this character like any other."

Domingo's versatility shines as he reflects on his diverse roles, from a vicious pimp in the 2020 crime drama "Zola" to the father in the 2018 James Baldwin adaptation "If Beale Street Could Talk." Each character, he explains, is meticulously constructed and infused with elements accessible from his own soul, illustrating the depth and dedication he brings to his craft.

In the realm of films like "Rustin," a powerful response to decades of homophobic erasure, the choice of a queer actor to portray the protagonist adds a nuanced layer to the narrative. Colman Domingo, who breathes life into the character of Bayard Rustin, acknowledges the ongoing debate surrounding straight actors playing gay roles. Reflecting on this, Domingo navigates the delicate balance, acknowledging, "If there's been any bristling, it's because there's been less opportunity for LGBTQIA+ people to portray [themselves on screen]."

While he holds strong opinions on the matter, Domingo rejects a rigid moral stance, stating, "Do I think that only queer people should play queer people? Absolutely not. That doesn't make sense to me at all." Drawing on examples like Tom Hanks's Oscar-winning role as an AIDS patient in "Philadelphia," Domingo highlights the richness lost if actors were confined strictly to roles aligning with their own identities. He advocates for the artistic freedom to portray a spectrum of characters, emphasizing the need for heart, aptitude, and courage.

With "Rustin" marking Domingo's inaugural leading screen role, his ascent from journeyman to leading man spans over three decades, nearly leading him to contemplate quitting the industry entirely. Born in Philadelphia to working-class parents, Domingo's journey began as a shy, bookish kid with a lisp who found his way into acting through theatre, initially enrolling in a journalism course at university. Despite early small roles in cop dramas and Clint Eastwood's "True Crime," Domingo's breakthrough came with more significant parts in Broadway musicals like "Passing Strange" and "The Scottsboro Boys," along with a role in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

Beyond acting, Domingo showcased his versatility by writing and directing for the stage and delving into photography, specializing in portraits. His journey, from a timid theatre enthusiast to a seasoned actor with a commanding leading role, exemplifies the depth of dedication and the varied talents that define Colman Domingo's remarkable career.

Following performances in the UK and Australia, Colman Domingo faced a pivotal crossroads upon returning to New York, contemplating a departure from acting. Disenchanted with the prospect of auditioning for what he describes as "dumbed-down projects," he contemplated shifting his focus to full-time photography. However, a change in management and agent redirected his trajectory, leading him to audition for the spin-off "Fear the Walking Dead," a decision that would profoundly alter his career.

Despite the mixed critical reception of the series, Domingo, the show's longest-serving cast member, cherishes the experience, acknowledging its transformative impact on his standing within the industry. Beyond acting, he assumed roles as a television director and producer on the show, using his position to advocate for improved working conditions. Reflecting on his advocacy, he notes, "On a long-running show, some things can get messy, some things you have to advocate for. You have to advocate for time, making sure things are working in an efficient way. Or good food."

As an Emmy-nominated actor for his guest role on the acclaimed teen drama "Euphoria," Domingo addresses the reported discord behind the scenes during the show's second season. Contrary to rumors, he firmly states, "Not one bit," emphasizing that the challenges of working long hours in television are inherent to the industry. He highlights the demanding nature of the profession, suggesting that not all young actors may be prepared for the intense work ethic required.

Colman Domingo's journey, from contemplating an exit from the industry to becoming a respected figure with diverse roles and responsibilities, showcases not only his resilience but also his commitment to fostering positive change within the world of television.

Set against the backdrop of a drug-infused, sexually charged American high school, "Euphoria" immerses viewers in a world where the cast, mostly in their mid-twenties, navigates the complexities of adolescence. Colman Domingo, a seasoned actor with a 32-year career, stands as one of the original members ("OGs") on the set, having appeared in seven of the 18 episodes. Brushing off reports of on-set discord, Domingo, drawing on his wealth of experience, emphasizes the normalcy of the demanding workdays, urging professionalism.

Having collaborated with Sam Levinson on the provocative 2018 film "Assassination Nation," Domingo speaks highly of the "Euphoria" creator, dismissing any notions of mistreatment on set. He describes Levinson as joyful, collaborative, and a fervent advocate for his actors. Domingo's impressive list of collaborators includes luminaries like Steven Spielberg, noted for his warmth and kindness, Steven Soderbergh, appreciated for his thoughtfulness, and Ava DuVernay, characterized by her daily embrace of the entire cast.

Reflecting on the late Chadwick Boseman, his co-star in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," Domingo leans forward, his voice softening. He fondly remembers Boseman as a good friend and inventive actor, praising his impact on humankind and the lasting legacy evident in buildings and schools named in his honor.

As Domingo's star continues to rise, with upcoming projects like Ethan Coen's "Drive Away Dolls," he remains focused on the current acclaim surrounding "Rustin," anticipating its prominence in the upcoming Oscar season. The actor's diverse and impactful collaborations underscore his enduring commitment to storytelling and the art of cinema.

"There's a propulsion right now for a film like Rustin," Colman Domingo eagerly asserts. He sees the film as timely, resonating with the current political landscape in the United States, where legislative efforts threaten to regress to the challenges of 1963, particularly in the realm of LGBTQIA+ rights and book bans. Domingo believes that "Rustin" is more than a biopic; it's a response to the pressing issues of our time.

In a moment where the left requires strategic political maneuvers and coordination, "Rustin" stands out for its practical, granular approach to history. Domingo emphasizes the film's allure, describing it as a "very sexy movie about organizing." The sexiness, he clarifies, doesn't stem from the portrayal of Rustin's personal life but rather from the potent energy of organizing and the relentless pursuit of justice. With a gravelly chuckle, he affirms, "That's hot."

As "Rustin" streams on Netflix, Colman Domingo's portrayal of Bayard Rustin has garnered rave reviews. His insights into the film's thematic core and its relevance to contemporary challenges highlight the power of storytelling to ignite conversations and inspire action.

In conclusion, Colman Domingo's passion for the film "Rustin" transcends the screen, aligning with the urgency of our times. As legislative challenges threaten to rewind the clock on civil rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and intellectual freedom in the United States, Domingo sees "Rustin" as a timely response. The film, beyond being a biopic, emerges as a potent narrative about the importance of organizing—a theme that Domingo finds inherently sexy, not in Rustin's personal life but in the energy of striving for justice.

Amidst a political landscape demanding strategy and coordination, "Rustin" offers a practical and granular approach to history, becoming a beacon for those advocating for positive change. Colman Domingo's laughter echoes the optimism embedded in the film's narrative, suggesting that the potency of organized efforts to bend the arc of justice is not only essential but, in his words, undeniably hot.

As the film streams on Netflix, Domingo's lead role in "Rustin" stands as a testament to his commitment to projects that transcend entertainment, sparking thought-provoking conversations and reflecting the resilience needed to address the challenges of our era. The impact of "Rustin" extends beyond the screen, contributing to discussions on rights, justice, and the power of storytelling to shape the narrative of our collective history.