Colman Domingo is one hot person, and you can take that in so many ways. His career is on fire, which was recently recognized by Out (The Advocate's sister magazine), which included him in their annual Out 100 list. Domingo turned heads for his role in the Golden Globe-nominated film If Beale Street Could Talk (based on James Baldwin's novel), starred in HBO’s spicy new series, Euphoria, and is one of the lead characters in AMC's hit series Fear the Walking Dead. Domingo also starred in Broadway's Chicago, directed episodes of FTWD, and wrote numerous theatrical works.
But what makes him especially hot during this month is the fact that as one of Hollywood and Broadway’s busiest and most versatile actors and writers, he turns 50 on Thanksgiving Day, and his attitudes about aging are at once comforting and inspirational.
Full confession. I have had a gym crush on Domingo for a number of years, and one day I got up the courage to talk to him. What I instantly recognized was a guy who not only looks great but has a warm and calming demeanor and spirit that immediately puts you at ease. The physical admiration gave way to full-on respect of a man who knows his place and his heart. When I found out that he was going to be 50, I asked him if he’d be willing to talk about the milestone.
“You know, I never really thought about benchmarks and age until maybe a few months ago after it dawned on me that 50 was right around the corner,” Domingo said during a phone conversation from his home in Los Angeles. “One thing that I have thought about is that 50 is giving me a chance to step into manhood again. What I mean by that is that during my 30s, I started to feel more mature and confident about a future for myself. And now, at 50, I realize that I don’t have much more time to waste, and that I need to make every moment count moving forward and be more deliberate in making choices that make me happy.”
Realizing the value of time and the fragility of mortality is inherent to Domingo and something he contemplates every day. “I lost my two closest friends when I was young, and my parents both passed away in their early 60s,” he recalled. “When you have these constant reminders about people dying at a young age, I think it helps you become more conscientious about your lifestyle choices, and how you take care of yourself and your body. My parents didn’t have access to the bounty of health and wellness information that we have today, so you can take steps to try and not repeat their fate and help give yourself more years of buoyancy.”
So first, to the physical part, Domingo is not only cautious about what he eats, but also makes sure that he takes good care of his body. “In my 30s, I can remember eating anything I wanted, and not worrying about making proper food choices. Now, my meals are a conscious decision, and these are thoughts that I never had before. And, I work out to maintain a natural physique. I see some of the guys my age, and older, at the gym, and they look almost super-human, and I don’t think that happens without some help. That’s not for me. I’ll take care of my body and allow it to age naturally which is surely helping in the long run.”
Psychologically, approaching 50 is also causing Domingo to take stock of his career and its trajectory, and how he sees himself in his second phase of manhood.
“I’m making an effort to be even more detailed in taking all my experiences of life to this point, and other’s experiences, and using them in a more creative way. So, I’m starting to make a transition. I want to be able to produce and tell stories, and for me that means growing outside of being an actor or a writer and becoming an executive that can push projects that are more meaningful.”
Domingo explained that he recently started his own production company, and he’s looking forward, in this next stage of his life, to growing and nurturing this new opportunity. “To be able to produce television, film and theater projects, that’s what I have in mind. Having a seat at the table and building that table out,” he explained. “I’ve been very blessed to this point that I’m an actor and a writer that is constantly working, but now it’s time for me to grow. I love being an artist, but I also have a very good business sense, so now I want to combine those two talents.”
As he grows older, Domingo says that this creative focus is also allowing him to appreciate the arts more in his spare time. “In my life, I’ve looked up to a wide-range of artists from Paul Robeson, Grace Jones, Egon Schiele, and Julia Morgan. And I have developed a new appreciation for all artists — whether it’s books, poetry, dance, paintings, plays. I’m looking at these artists again more closely, and other artists, and looking for clues in helping me think outside the box about the vision of my own work.”
And Domingo still believes in himself and in his dreams, even at 50. He is adamant that having a strong sense of a vision forward is critical at this point in his life. “I believe that we should create a narrative for ourselves, and that if we believe in it strongly enough we will see it, and as you get older you’re able to sharpen that narrative,” he surmises. “Anything you want is attainable, and when I think about that, I remember visiting Oprah’s house in Montecito. It is called, The Promised Land. Oprah has that great vision for herself, and it’s a lesson on giving yourself a more powerful one. Your faith in yourself should get stronger as you get older, and a few years ago I didn’t have the faith in myself that I have now, and I think that’s one of the blessings of aging and getting the chance to be 50.”
Married for 14 years now, Domingo gives a lot of credit to his husband with helping him to be his more fuller self. “We are deeper into our relationship now than we’ve ever been, and I expect that to grow,” he explained. “You’re along for each other’s ride through life, and you have to be unafraid of changing directions. It helps that my husband and I want nothing more for ourselves than to be the best persons we can be and allow ourselves to be free and unafraid, and help each other grow in our own spaces.”
Leading up to 50, Domingo and his husband recently moved from New York City to Los Angeles, taking that cue of being more free and open quite literally. “We left the congestion and the noise, and now have more space at the house we bought last year. There’s trees, pool, it’s just a different way of life.”
Domingo is taking this new free way of life, and his new age, to heart in a more playful and fun-loving way. “Since I was a child, I always had a joyful spirit, and I think as I grow older, I’m letting that show through more. I guess you could say that I’ve become a little bit of a hippie, with some parts of a fairy and a magician mixed in,” he chuckled. “I’ve altered my style I guess to be a bit more spirited, and it’s working just fine for me at this age.”
I wanted to know if he had any trepidation about being perceived as an older gay man, and Domingo paused for a moment to reflect. “You know, I want to show vitality, and concentrate more on my experiences, ideas, and relationships, instead of casting things aside so much,” he contemplated. “For a moment, I think there’s something about not turning heads as much as you used too. Sure, you still want people to think you’re attractive. But really, what’s more valuable? In the culture we live in, we can easily drink the Kool-Aid and obsess about body image and physical appearance. You might be good looking and have a hot body for a moment, but there’s so much more than that about being a man, and so, so much more about being an older man. I embrace it. All that experience that you’ve attained is invaluable.”
We wrapped-up our conversation around what Domingo would say to his 30-year-old self, and the advice he would share that would help afford him a better outlook once he would turn 50. “Of course, you’d say continue to work hard, but I would add be patient. Trust deeply in the things you are seeking, and they will seek you. That life will be ok even after you lose your parents or your two best friends. Life will take you to unexpected places, and on unexpected rides, so go with it and enjoy those places and those rides. If you do all that, then at 50 you will be the happiest and most joyful person that you thought you would be.”
John Casey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.