Colman Domingo — actor, playwright, dramaturge, producer, professor and the fella who confirmed as much as this yr’s Oscars in a hot pink sequined Versace suit — is probably going greatest recognized for his character of Victor on tv’s “Fear the Walking Dead.” He’s additionally introduced a delicate soulfulness to the array of characters he’s portrayed in a few of the previous decade’s most distinguished Black movies: “The Butler,” “Selma,” “42,” “The Birth of a Nation,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Movie audiences will see one other facet of Domingo in two of this summer time’s most anticipated movies: as a neighborhood old-timer in “Candyman,” a horror sequel directed by Nia DaCosta; and as a pimp named X within the indie movie “Zola,” directed by Janicza Bravo and primarily based on a viral tweet thread about two strippers on a madcap street journey.
Chatting (by way of Zoom) in natty exercise garments from his Los Angeles residence, he talked about how Hollywood is grappling with the nation’s racial reckoning, even in seemingly small however essential methods, and why he’s OK with talking for the Black expertise. These are edited excerpts from the dialog.
Jordan Peele is without doubt one of the screenwriters of “Candyman.” Had you labored with him earlier than?
I had not. We had a common assembly the day after he received the Oscar. Literally the day after. I believed — clearly he’s going to cancel this appointment ‘cause, I don’t know, he’s been out all night time, doing what individuals do after the Oscars. It was a 10 a.m. assembly. Jordan got here down, we talked for 45 minutes and have become quick mates. He wrote the character for me.
I additionally watched “Zola,” which — wow.
Am I freaking you out now, Cara?
Your characters at all times deliver this clever soulfulness — after which there’s this man. Then there’s X.
I learn the primary three pages of the script and I believed ‘Whoa, I’ve by no means learn something like this.’ It was so sharp, it was so darkish, but it surely was so trustworthy. Janicza pursued me. I’m coming off “If Beale Street Could Talk,” [and playing] different great loving males who love their daughters, and who actually elevate girls. I’m like ‘What? What did she see in me?’ Because it performs to the darkest components of ourselves. And I believed, as a result of I’m such a staunch feminist, it makes much more sense to deconstruct and look into the psyche of a person who would visitors girls.
He relies on an actual man, an immigrant appropriating American colloquialisms. This goes to sound actually bizarre — I’ve to take it from the standpoint of it being an immigrant story for my character. He came upon what he can use for commerce, which is horrible and terrifying, however he discovered his method, and he wished what everybody needs. People who don’t know me from stage work don’t know I at all times performed darkish characters and villains.
What was that like for you, going again to darkish characters?
It was superior. I appear to work very nicely with girls as a result of I believe that they’re not afraid of my strengths, and the place I wish to go, after which they can assist information it.
“Ma Rainey” was one other deep immersion. We’re seeing extra movies within the mainstream about Black lives, but it surely additionally makes you understand the paucity of movies like these earlier than.
I really feel like that’s why I’m a bit extra helpful now within the movie house. People name on me, not solely simply to make use of my voice as an actor, however they need to hear what I’ve to say as a dramaturge.
Is one thing lastly shifting in Hollywood?
I believe that’s the reality. I’ve been reached out to as a author a lot — for Broadway musicals, for you title it. We’ve been proper right here and ready and doing our personal work and creating our personal universes and now — now we’re being invited in. I keep in mind I got here again for Season 7 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” and I lastly noticed a Black base camp manufacturing assistant. And these beautiful white girls who maintain me — they made strides over the hiatus to get coaching for my hair. And my hair and my make-up artist went and visited with this man in Houston to learn to maintain my beard.
Until then was it a catastrophe?
It wasn’t a catastrophe but it surely was simply form of like, oh, an experiment. Or individuals would have a look at my hair once I’d get to a set and simply say, “Oh you’re good.” That was a observe that went on for a few years in our business. And to be trustworthy, I understand the silence was being complicit. Because I might present up with my very own equipment, and I might simply go into my dressing room and maintain it. Most actors did that. But then you definately’re, like, doing further work.
I used to be questioning how final yr’s racial reckoning would reverberate in Hollywood, particularly since we’re spending extra time than ever on screens. Everything we see goes to have an effect on us.
Absolutely, which is why I’ve been a proponent of claiming I’m actually slightly exhausted with tales which can be targeted on Black trauma. That perpetuates a story — that’s the one method that the world sees us, as being abused and victimized. I really like what Nia DaCosta has accomplished in “Candyman,” which is that you just by no means see any of the trauma onscreen. You by no means see a Black physique being brutalized.
Right, I seen that it was solely white individuals.
I believe it was very acutely aware. And additionally with “Zola,” the place the character you assume could be the ratchet character is definitely the white lady who’s appropriating Black tradition — a sure window of Black tradition, of avenue ghetto tradition. And the Black lady is extra suburban and similar to, ‘I’m simply making an attempt to go and strip and also you’re doing all this and also you’re doing essentially the most, sis.’ I believe it’s actually saying one thing about who we’re. And really I really feel prefer it was such a sensible factor for [the film’s release] to be jettisoned to this summer time. After that terrific, horrible summer time of racial reckoning, I believe we need to exit and see ourselves anew, and chuckle at a few of our [stuff.]
Going again to “Ma Rainey” — do you know Chadwick Boseman was sick?
I didn’t in any respect. Whatever ache he was going by, I didn’t know till after. It was some superhuman energy. I imply I used to be exhausted — and I used to be very wholesome.
“Black Panther” shifted the world. It was dropping a little bit of a superhero in a method.
Truly, and particularly proper after the entire awards season, you’re taking a breath and regroup and ask, ‘What did you learn from this, what was your purpose?’ Which is why I educate on the facet. Because there’s one thing about talking for others, being in service on this business, that I believe I’ve been known as on to do.
How do you imply?
A scholar instructed me, “There’s no one who has been consistently in the most impactful Black films in the past 15 years more than you.” And I used to be like, he was proper. Apparently I can’t simply take a job and simply go sit down someplace. I’ve to talk out on it, and our expertise. That’s one thing I’m OK with now. It took me a very long time.
I believe you’re proper. I simply hosted “Oscars After Dark.” And that got here out of nowhere. It is smart as a result of I do consider that I’m in service. It requires you to point out up, and interact in conversations with fellow artists about illustration. There are issues I’m excited about. Elevating our visibility. The method I communicate, the best way I dress-— all of that’s acutely aware. It’s all doing the work that predecessors like Nat King Cole or Sammy Davis Jr. or Harry Belafonte and even Sidney Poitier — all they’ve accomplished to maneuver the needle on who we’re. To present Black males in a unique gentle. So I’m very acutely aware of that.
[By follow-up email] I forgot to ask you maybe a very powerful query of all. Have you appeared within the mirror and stated “Candyman” 5 instances — only for the heck of it?
HA-HA. I’ve not and I by no means will.