Colman Domingo ‘lost his mind’ after missing out on Boardwalk Empire role due to skin colour

Colman Domingo ‘lost his mind’ after missing out on Boardwalk Empire role due to skin colour

Colman Domingo has recalled his despair when he learned he’d missed out on a role in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire due to his skin colour.

The 54-year-old actor is currently starring in Netflix civil rights biopic Rustin and movie musical The Color Purple.

However, in 2014 Domingo found himself auditioning for small parts known as “under-fives”, meaning a character who has fewer than five lines of dialogue.

Domingo hoped that one such role as a nightclub maître d’ on period drama Boardwalk Empire might prove to be a gateway to more sustained work, and remembers tapdancing in a tuxedo while auditioning for producers.

It was only after one of the show’s historical researcher reminded producers that the maître d’s in those nightclubs were typically light-skinned in that era that Boardwalk Empire passed.

“That’s when I lost my mind,” Domingo told The New York Times, recalling how he screamed and slid to the floor when he heard the news from his agent. He responded by repeating: “I can’t take it anymore, I think this is going to kill me.” Later, he told his husband he was prepared to quit acting for good.

Colman Domingo in Hollywood in 2023. (Getty Images for ELLE)
Colman Domingo in Hollywood in 2023. (Getty Images for ELLE)

Since that low point, Domingo’s star has been on the rise. He won an Emmy for the hit series Euphoria and starred in 2018’s If Beale Street Could Talk and 2020’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

In a recent interview with The Independent, Domingo recalled the moment he considered leaving the industry behind. “This isn’t some Hollywood fluff story,” he said, “but I was literally on my way out of this business. I didn’t think I was going to be fulfilled any more after I moved back from London. I was auditioning for very dumbed-down projects.”

He considered making his photography side business a full-time pursuit. Instead, he changed manager and agent, and auditioned for a hotly anticipated spin-off of a hit AMC drama: Fear the Walking Dead. The role proved to his breakthrough.

“It really changed me, man,” said Domingo. “It changed my standing in this industry. It gave me a solid foundation of work and wealth. I became a television director and became a producer on that show.”

He was also able to advocate for better working conditions. “On a long-running show, some things can get messy, some things you have to advocate for,” he said. “You have to advocate for time, making sure things are working in an efficient way. Or good food. I can’t do my job unless I’m healthy and warm. I like to show up and know that I’m gonna have a good day. I don’t wanna fight many fights.”