Colman Domingo: Big Gay Showstopper
BY Brandon Voss
April 13 2010 6:00 PM ET
Does Rosie ever invite the cast over to her house?
No. [Laughs] The woman’s very busy. She’ll come to some of the premiere parties, but I don’t expect dinner at Rosie’s anytime soon. She has taken some cast members on her family cruises, though.
You have a very broad audience when you do theater, but you’re basically performing exclusively for the gay audience on Big Gay Sketch Show. I imagine that must be pretty liberating.
It is. First of all, we have too much fun together. Our jokes have been funneled to be specific to our fan base, but we’re also broadening our reach when it comes to our comedy. Some things will have a gay sensibility, but they won’t necessarily be specifically a gay topic. But it’s really cool that we can connect with our humor without making any excuses. Ultimately, I love that we can just be ourselves.
After working with only gay actors on Big Gay Sketch Show, do you ever get culture shock when you find yourself the sole gay person in another cast?
Oh, that happens all the time. It’s very common for me to be the lone gay man on a project. But there’s a Law & Order: Criminal Intent coming out in a few weeks where I’m the butchest guy in the episode. I play this Haitian guy, and I get to walk into a club, backhand this girl, knock this other guy out, and sit around with my troupe of thugs. I had a good giggle about it because all these extras around me were like real thugs, but here I am, this gay boy, and I’m the one running this motherfucker.
You’re currently starring in the sold-out off-Broadway hit The Scottsboro Boys, a world-premiere musical by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, the team behind hit musicals like Chicago, Cabaret, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. It’s also got a book by Chicago’s David Thompson, and it’s directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman of The Producers fame. The critically acclaimed production is set to transfer to Broadway next season, but what has your experience with the show been like so far?
It’s truly incredible. I got an email from John Kander last night that said, “I’m just back in town. Let’s go to lunch.” The idea of me going to lunch with John Kander is something I never could’ve imagined, but these people are now a part of my family. I understand why these people are legendary because they’re the most generous, inspiring people I’ve ever met. I’ve been really lucky and blessed to even be in a room with these people.
The Scottsboro Boys is about the true story of a group of African-American teens falsely accused of rape in the 1930s. Did you have any hesitations doing a musical — created by white folks, mind you — that tells this racially sensitive story by using old minstrel show conventions? That sounds pretty risky on paper.
It could’ve fallen apart and been a nightmare, but I’ve known the show was in capable hands since the first day of rehearsal. The whole process has been so intelligent and tasteful. Everyone did their research and knows their history, which is why the piece is soaring beyond the beyond, and they all welcomed input and acknowledged my voice in the room. It works to do the show in a minstrel format because it’s entertaining, but it’s a convention that mixes absurdity with realism, so we can go anywhere we want at any time. I’m excited to be a part of something so bold and daring. The show really feels like it has the blessing of the Scottsboro boys themselves.
You play a number of roles in The Scottsboro Boys, which isn’t the first time a show has required you to play multiple characters.
I thrive on that, but it is very challenging. I recently did a play, Athol Fugard’s Coming Home at Long Wharf Theatre, where I played one character throughout — I sat at a table and didn’t have any costume changes. Following one character’s arc from beginning to end is a whole different mindset. Doing multiple character work is athletic in every way — vocally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. With a show like Passing Strange, I usually lose about 12 pounds.