NEW YORK (AP) — Colman Domingo has a strong physical presence, an expressive face and soulful eyes. But his most graceful and powerful tool is his voice.
It can drop into a bone-chilling baritone, as in a pimp who speaks with a Nigerian accent. Janeca Bravo “Zola”. Or it can rise to a warm and cultured tempo Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, in “Rustin”. In Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Domingo’s voice, as a Union soldier, is the first thing you hear.
Domingo himself isn’t sure when his voice became so echoey. Tracing it takes him back to his childhood, growing up as a self-described outsider — gay, awkward, and unsure of himself — in West Philadelphia. This sound didn’t exist 20 years ago, he says.
“At some point, as I grew up and became this person, comfortable in my own skin, my sexuality, my mind, my intentions, and who I was in the world, I think my voice evolved more,” Domingo says. “I don’t know that I ever had that voice before. All the resonance in my voice I can hear. There’s confidence. There’s a seriousness to it. “I’m hearing exactly what people are hearing now.”
People finally hear on Sunday. His performance in George C. Wolfe’s film “Rostin” — Domingo’s first time topping the bill — made the 53-year-old actor the favorite for a best actor Oscar nomination. It’s a brilliant, dazzling lead performance that channels all the complexities The march to Washington structural engineer.
Domingo also stars as El Cid, the abusive antagonist of “Violet” One of the most anticipated holiday releases. The roles couldn’t be more different. Throw in the hit fall festival “Ghani Ghani,” With Domingo starring alongside a cast of formerly incarcerated actors (A24 will release it in 2024), you get the full scope of what Domingo can do.
Years of struggle as a side player in service to others finally led to his turn in the spotlight.
“I started to feel like, ‘Okay, what happened, my God? What is my journey?’ “At some point, my journey looked like Bayard’s, and maybe that’s why I feel like we’re so close,” Domingo says. “You know, I’ve helped so many people get Oscars. “You have helped so many people find so much shine and love.”
In the wake of End of the actors’ strikeHe met Domingo recently at a Manhattan hotel overlooking Central Park. After months of being unable to promote this part of his life, he jumped right into late-night appearances, interviews and a screening of “Rustin” in Washington, with Barack and Michelle Obama, who… High ground production Produce the film. Domingo gathered a bunch of cold-weather clothes together and hopped on a plane from Los Angeles.
“Basically, I was shot out of a cannon,” he says with a smile.
Domingo, who was sincere and friendly in conversation, seemed like someone keenly aware that his hard-earned moment had finally arrived.
“I keep telling people I’m 54. Because it’s so unusual for it to happen now,” says Domingo (his birthday is Nov. 28). “Suddenly, after 32 years, it seems like the sun is shining in every corner of my career.” .
Domingo was raised in a working-class family by his mother and stepfather. Domingo’s father, after whom he was named, was not a part of his life. He didn’t start acting until he took an acting class at Temple University. In regional theatre, beginning in San Francisco, he honed the wide-ranging ability of the character actor.
“When I grew up, I never thought I would look at it so much. I think it liberated me,” Domingo says. “I know I can play a handsome man and an ugly man because I’m liberated. I can play anything. I don’t look at myself. I don’t take myself seriously. “I have a clown’s body.”
For The Color Purple director Blitz Bazaoli, Domingo belatedly became the leading man he was destined to be after years of more famous acting co-stars.
“Coleman comes from the old school of actors. ‘You think of Bogart or you think of Daniel Day,'” Bazzaoli says. “These guys, the moment you hear them or see them, there’s a definite presence to them. I think he follows that tradition of men leading. “Coleman takes the frame.”
The voice played a central role in Domingo finding Rustin. The film, which is streaming on Netflix, depicts the tireless grassroots activism of Rustin, who was openly gay, in Organizing the 1963 march Where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. Domingo was puzzled by the mid-Atlantic origin of Rustin’s accent before speaking with Rachel Horowitz, who organized transportation for the march.
“She said, ‘He made that up,’” Domingo says. “I thought that was the key. Here was someone who really created herself at a time when everyone was trying to write you off or lock you up or violate your body because you’re black and queer. I thought: This is courage.”
Domingo’s path also requires self-invention. His first breakthrough came with the play “Passing Strange,” which ran at the Public Theater in 2007 before opening on Broadway in 2008. Although celebrated — Coleman shared an Obie Award for the ensemble — once the play was over, Domingo found himself bartending again.
Domingo decided to take his own chance, writing and directing his autobiography “The boy and his soul” A masterful one-man play that used the soul music of his youth (Earth Wind & Fire, Donna Summer) to evoke his life story and the inspirational figure of his mother, his greatest heroine. In it, he remembers his mother telling him: “Keep a song in your heart, and you will always find your way.” She and Domingo’s stepfather died in 2016.
“I started writing my one-man show in the last year of my mother’s life and little did I know it would save my life,” Domingo says. “I was writing so I could be with my family for 90 minutes a day.”
Domingo’s production company, Edith, is named after his mother. Domingo says that when her son was struggling to get rest, she wrote at least six letters to Oprah Winfrey. “She can help you,” she said. “I want you to know her.” “I said to myself: ‘Mom, Oprah doesn’t care about me.’”
“People’s prayers and wishes for you are sometimes deeper than you can imagine,” Domingo says.
In the years since, Domingo’s reach has only expanded. He did comedy in the series “The Big Gay Sketch Show”. He was nominated for a Tony Award for “The Scottsboro Boys” on Broadway. “Fear the Walking Dead,” in which he played Victor Strand for eight years, brought him his largest audience yet. Directors like Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and Bravo (“Zola”) came calling.
“When I was cast in Zola, I thought, ‘Me, playing a pimp? “‘Q? In this black comedy? What do you see in me?'” Domingo says. “I see that the possibilities of the way you think are endless,” said Janexa Bravo.
Wolfe, a respected theater director, cast Domingo for the first time “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” Along with Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, as trombonist Cutler. Gradually, he came to see Domingo in the role of Bayard Rustin.
“I would talk to Mark Rickler, the production designer, and say, ‘Oh, Coleman can do that,’” Wolfe recalls. “Part of my mind was like, ‘Oh, Coleman can do that.’” “It was an organic conversation that had a degree of inevitability but I didn’t realize That at that time. I think with all good smart decisions, there is a sense of inevitability.
Now, Domingo finds himself teaming up with some of the Hollywood legends his mother envisioned him with. Winfrey is a producer on “The Color Purple” and the two became friends. During an outing in Hawaii for Ava DuVernay’s birthday (DuVernay played Domingo in “Selma”), he told Winfrey about letters his mother had written to her.
“I said, ‘I think I just realized you answered her texts,'” Domingo says. “And she clutches her heart and says, ‘Oh, Coleman. Then we started walking again.”
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP