Q&A Quickie: Colman Domingo, an Actor-Playwright 'Wild With Happy'

By: Brandon Voss

A survivor of Logo’s The Big Gay Sketch Show, Out 100 honoree Colman Domingo chases his GLAAD Award-winning solo show A Boy and His Soul and a Tony-nominated turn in The Scottsboro Boys with the world premiere of his play Wild With Happy, which opens Oct. 23 at New York's Public Theater. Domingo also stars as Gil, a struggling gay actor who sleeps with a handsome funeral director and takes an unexpected road trip with his flamboyant best friend after the death of his mother. The 42-year-old Philadelphia native chats with Gay.net about going Wild — and lunching with Oprah on the set of his upcoming film, Lee Daniels' The Butler.

Gay.net: Your one-man show, A Boy and His Soul, was autobiographical. Your own mother's passing in 2006 inspired Wild With Happy. How autobiographical is the play beyond that?
Colman Domingo: I would say it's about 30% autobiographical. I'm inspired by many stories — not only my own but also those of friends, family members, and anyone who has a surreal and bizarre story to share about laying a body down.

Tell me about the choice to make the your character, Gil, a gay man.
Well, writers write from what they know, but beyond that I thought it would be interesting to write from the perspective of an African American gay male. That's not the kind of protagonist you're used to seeing in a play. Oddly enough, though, the play is not about him being gay; for me, it's really about dealing with loss. I think it's impossible for his sexual orientation to have no part in what he's dealing with, but that isn't the subject we're looking to explore. This just happens to be a story about an African American gay male dealing with all this, instead of... Meryl Streep.

A Boy and His Soul notably won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Theater: Broadway and Off-Broadway, beating out high-profile nominees like Next Fall and The Temperamentals. Although it must be difficult to find time to write on top of your acting gigs, did recognition like the GLAAD victory encourage you to keep writing for the stage?
I think now I'm becoming more publicly known as a writer, but really I've been writing since about 1997, when I was an actor and director in the Bay Area. I have always made time for writing. I'm always inspired to write a new story. It definitely takes a little longer because I have acting and directing work on the forefront. That said, I'm getting more opportunities as a writer; I've been getting commissions — one from the American Conservatory Theatre and another from a theater in Philadelphia. Hopefully that will enable me to take a few weeks off from all of the other things I'm doing and just write.

What can you share about filming The Butler with filmmaker Lee Daniels? Any good Oprah stories?
Lee created such a family environment — Oprah has also said this in the press. It was such an ensemble, truly. I had lunch with Oprah while we were all on the set, and that was really sweet. We mostly talked about actor stuff, how hot it was on set, what's the food like — "I'm glad we got more grains today." [Laughs] It was really human. No real crazy stories. Also lovely experiences drinking wine with Mariah Carey and sharing laughs with Lenny Kravitz. I just had a great time.

Did Lee Daniels make you wear tighty whities like Zac Efron in The Paperboy?
No, Lee Daniels did not make me wear tighty whities. I'm very well dressed in the film because I play the head of the butler staff. But he did have me in one of those mustaches that curl up at the end — and my hair was permed!

Colman Domingo's Wild With Happy opens Oct. 23 and run through Nov. 11 at the Public Theater.