If you’ve seen Colman Domingo on stage or on screen, you know there’s nothing he can’t do. That’s why it came as no surprise this past weekend that the actor, writer, and director won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Ali in the HBO hit Euphoria.
With a Tony Award already under his belt for his performance as Mr. Bones in the Broadway Musical The Scottsboro Boys, and leading roles in two of next year’s most anticipated films, The Color Purple musical and Rustin, achieving EGOT status seems more than well within reach for Domingo. And he wants it.
Here we chat with the multi-faceted talent about his trajectory from bartending to Broadway, his brunch series, and building his career in Hollywood.
What does one have to do to get invited to Bottomless Brunch at Colman’s?
COLMAN DOMINGO: I love that that’s your first question. What you have to do is be one of my close friends, who also, I think is very interesting. I wanted people to get to know my friends the way I know them. Because I think that people like Common or Yahya Abdul-Mateen, or Janicza Bravo, you name it, are very interesting, unique human beings. And I didn’t want a format of an interview show that is about promoting anything. I just wanted it to be the way people come to my home and have brunch and you get to know their personalities. I found that very interesting and I want to continue to humanize the people that I love and admire.
Article continues after video.
And there’s a personal connection as well. You used to bartend, is that correct?
DOMINGO:I bartended for about 15 years of my life, that was always the way I had my hustle on. I always made the money on the side. It was very flexible, so I could continue to be the artist that I was striving to be. And it was also fun. I was a really good bartender, so it’s really permeated every part of my life. I literally, I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but I have three bars in my home. I have one outside, I have one in the great room and I have a small one here because, and it’s funny because I drink very moderately, but I love the idea of a cocktail when people come over and making something really interesting.
What’s your go-to cocktail?
DOMINGO: My go-to, lately, I’ve been very much in the mood for classic cocktails. Like a Vodka Gibson. I’ve always drank like an old man. In college people are having Long Island Iced Teas and Alabama Slammers and things like that, that gave you headaches. I was drinking a simple Vodka Martini or a simple glass of Scotch. Summer makes me think of crisp, clean cocktails, but also a little dirty. So a Gibson is a little dirty with some wonderful onions in there.
I’m always curious how people persevere when in pursuit of their dreams. When you were bartending, was it difficult holding onto the desire to be an actor or did you always know you were going to make it one day?
DOMINGO: Well, that’s a great question. I think I’ve always had a belief and faith that good work will persevere and I knew that. I always tell people now, just if you’re bartending or doing something outside of your artist’s work, it’s still all the same. You’re doing the thing that you need to do to keep the lights on. But hopefully you’re doing something that brings you some joy and makes you feel creative. And I think that’s what bartending did. I still felt my creative self. I felt sociable. I was in touch with people. I was having great conversations. I was doing all the work that I need. I use bartending in my acting work. I’m an observer of humankind.
So, I always had that faith because I didn’t let the bartending just take precedence over my art. It was instantly in support. So, if I worked from 9:00 PM until 4:00 AM, I would go home and get some sleep and I would get up and get to work on these auditions that I would have at 11:00 AM. And I would keep it going. It’s all a part of it. I would take my nap in the afternoon and get up again and start, go to bartend.
When I was working off Broadway, I remember one time in particular, I was in a major show off Broadway, but sometimes off Broadway’s not paying super well. I literally would take a bow, get up, run off stage, change my clothes, hop a taxi, get across town and be serving someone in the next 15 minutes. And so, once you realize that that’s part of all of it, that has to be a part of it. I still need to make this money and I need this bartending gig, but I’m also supporting my art and vice versa.
So, I just knew it was all one and it wasn’t a separate thing. And I’m always trying to tell people that as well, when they feel like, “Oh, I have to get a real job.” I’m like, “That’s okay. But hopefully get something that you feel like is helping to inspire you and inspire your art at the same time.”
I actually just moved a couple of months ago so I have my eye on some of the items in your home entertaining collection. What can you tell me about the pieces and the partnership behind it?
DOMINGO: It’s so dope. It’s one of the dopest things that I’ve been a part of because I got to actually pick out every single thing. It’s all inspired by my personal style. I’m very much a classic mid-century style person in my home. I think that things feel luxurious yet playful at the same time. I think that’s the aesthetic I’ve always gone for even the way that I dress. So, nothing is taking too seriously in a way. So, that’s why there’s a lot of gold. There’s a lot of black and then there’s pops of color, even the Born to Cocktail napkins, I thought, “Oh, that’s fun.”
So, it’s always like, it’s a bit of an event, but also having fun. And I think that’s what I like about it. And I think that’s what Ketel One and Social Studies are interested in as well. So, I’m glad that we partnered on this because I really only partner with things that I really believe in. I’m like, “Oh, this is dope. I love Ketel One. I love having people over. I’m always hosting…” And really a lot of that flatware and dining room and stuff like that looks like it can be in my own kitchen. I love stoneware. I actually only have gold forks, knives and spoons.
DOMINGO: See? Cut from the same cloth. Because I’m like, everything should be an event, just because I’m having a little snack doesn’t mean I can’t have it on lovely stoneware and a gold fork. Why not? I feel like our lives should have more events and pomp in circumstance and you can do it in not the most expensive ways too.
Congratulations on winning an EMMY for your role on Euphoria. What do you love most about guest appearing on that series and playing Ali?
DOMINGO: I love the impact that Ali has on people whether they’re struggling or whether they struggle to love and care for someone who is suffering from the disease of addiction. I’ve received so many messages, whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook or personal messages saying, “Thank you for shedding light on this disease and humanizing these people.” And because I feel the struggle is that path to redemption for people who have possibly done terrible things to themselves, several things to others, lost their trust or faith in the world, Ali is a representation of the fact that, I think, you can get better and that path to redemption and love, self love, a love of others. And I really like that.
I’ve been working for many years, but I’ve become extraordinarily popular because of Ali. And in particular, Ali has an effect on young women. And I realize it’s almost like they wish they had a charismatic, strong figure, male figure in their lives to be an equal with and say, “Hey, I see you. I support you.” Whether it’s their father or big brother or friend, cousin or something. And I think that’s what he represents. I’m always getting so much love from young women. They want to hug me. They want to sit with me, they want to talk with me. I went by a group of a hundred tourist girls in Washington DC a few weeks ago. And they all lost their minds as if I was the Beatles. But it was that love and admiration that I thought was so beautiful. And I really appreciate that.
Now that you have a Tony and an EMMY, have you set your sights on being an EGOT?
DOMINGO: Yes. I’ve never been a person who… I always think that award is subjective, but I do understand how they move the needle on things that you care about. So, I think that whatever it does to amplify my work, I’m here for it. And I don’t know, I do know that I’m a writer, a director, an actor, a singer, a dancer. And I think that I have all the skills necessary to become an EGOT winner. Why not?
But I have silly goals. Maybe I want to be a full EGOT within one year. Wouldn’t that dope?
Absolutely. Well, Color Purple is next. Anything you can tell us about production on this project?
DOMINGO: It was absolutely thrilling to play Mister, first of all, knowing that Oprah and Blitz hand picked their cast and they entrusted me to play the center of a lot of this, whether it’s trauma or struggle and also some redemption as well, I think that I gave it all that I had. I worked alongside Fantasia, Taraji P. Henson and Corey Hawkins and Danielle Brooks who I truly love and admire, Blitz is a beautiful visionary. It’s going to be like nothing anyone has ever seen. It’s going to explore the imagination of Celie, which is also part of her way out of her circumstance. So, to say, you can beat the spirit down and you can beat the body down, but the spirit is always soaring and that’s how we as Black people have moved through. So, I think that that’s an incredible message.
It was hot, Atlanta is hot, but all you have to do is dig in and be like, “Listen, my people had it worse than this many, many years ago. There’s nothing I can’t shoulder. So, it was a privilege to be a part of The Color Purple and Alice Walker’s incredible words. I can’t wait for everybody to see it. The songs, everything about it is fantastic.
You also have another incredibly important role, which is that of Bayard Rustin.
DOMINGO: Oh my goodness.That was gift to me.
Talk about what it meant to play him and the significance of this film that’s coming.
DOMINGO: I am absolutely on the shoulders of greatness. Bayard Rustin is one of those men who has always inspired me. Knowing that our stories, especially sometimes as part of the LGBTQ community, how we’re swept underneath the history of books. He is the whole reason for the March on Washington because he organized it. He also is the one who inspired Dr. King with his philosophies of passive resistance and the things that he’s learned from Gandhi, you name it. And so he’s the one who inspired Dr. King in many ways.
It’s amazing to me that it’s taken so long for his story to be told, but I’m really glad that that’s been put into my heart, into my hands, as well as George C. Wolf, one of the most visionary directors of the 20th and 21st century, actually. And it’s produced by the Obamas, everything about it’s just like, you’re actually a part of making history and somehow I’m standing deeply rooted in the middle of that and I can’t feel more blessed.