Saturday, May 25, 2024

Oscars: Colman Domingo Could Be the First Black Double Oscar Nominee Starting with His Stunning Turn in “Rustin”


“Rustin” now streaming on Netflix, is garnering rave reviews, especially for its sublime star, Colman Domingo who plays openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. At the recent junket in DC, where journalists went to the Library of Congress to see its recent ‘Bayard Rustin Papers’ exhibition.

The next day journalists saw the Lockkeeper’s House, built in 1837, on the National Mall where Rustin was the architect of 1963’s momentous March on Washington. Directed beautifully by George C. Wolfe, the film co-stars Glynn Turman, Chris Rick, Audra McDonald, Jeffrey Wright and CCH Pounder. Coleman Domingo is simply glorious in this film. He and the film are worthy of the all the awards it will most certainly garner.

Colman Domingo may actually be the first Black actor to get two Oscar nominations in one season. Not only does he headline as Bayard Rustin, he’s a likely Best Supporting Actor in “The Color Purple” as Mister.

I spoke to both star Colman Domingo and legendary director George C. Wolfe in Washington, DC.

What drew you to the role of Bayard Rusin? What made you want to play him?

CD-The first thing is the fact that he was hidden in the shadows of history. He made such a profound impact on history. He was one of the greatest organizers that ever walked this planet. He not only believed for not only civil rights and rights for LGBTQIA+, he dedicated his life to it, yet history had a way of pushing him aside because he was openly gay. That drew me in. The people who are marginalized in the world, who deserve their rightful place in history, who are complex and interesting and intelligent and warm and witty and have love. The more we tell these stories, the more understanding we have of who we are in the world.

How do you think he survived?

CD-I think I would like to say that he would say, that it came from the way he was raised, his grandmother, his Quaker upbringing. There are certain things that helped build him into the man that he was where he felt that he had a true sense of self. Because at his center he knew who he was. He knew he was smarter than anyone in the room. He knew he had love, joy, wit, charm along with his sexuality. He also knew that his homosexuality was something he should not be ashamed of. When he came out to his grandmother, she was fine. That’s what gave him his standing in the world. That’s how he could survive. I think that’s how any of us survive. How do you survive? That’s a great question. And that’s what is great about this film. You see someone is knocked down constantly, but they get back up. That’s the human spirit that’s actually at our best, that’s who we are.

Do you think he knew he was ahead of his time?

CD-He knew he had to be who he was, which was groundbreaking at that time. He knew he was a critical and a bigger thinker than a lot of people. He didn’t think in small ways. Think about putting together a march, a peaceful protest over 200 thousand people, it’s kind of insane, and to get it done in 7 weeks. But he believed in the impossible. He believed in what he could not see. I think there’s something about that is very spiritual. He believed he could create something out of nothing. He created himself out of nothing.

George C. Wolfe chimed in at this point. He has a stunning 19 Tony nominations, plus 5 wins.

GCW- This human being who changed history and who history forgot. He was passionate activist about all kinds of causes. It wasn’t exclusively black civil rights. He protested against the Japanese internment. He went to prison because he was a conscientious objector to WW2 and while he was in prison demanded prison reform. Because of the ferocity of this convictions, he didn’t have time to think of the future. He was so committed to the moment and the cause of the moment. He found himself responding to his sense of responsibility as a human and as an American to make this country better.

George, your background is in theater. How did that influence you?

GCW- These were incredibly smart and eloquent people, they used the language differently. It was important cultivate this sense that the language and that it be sophisticated, real, raw funny, incisive and intense all at the exact same time. That was important to me because it felt culturally true and correct. It’s also fun for the actors to play so they feel that sense of exhilaration in the dialogue. As a result, we will be caught up in that exhilaration.

What was the main thing you took away?

GCW-I continue to be in awe of the specificity of his organizational skill set. That kind of organizational brain I found dazzling.

Leah Sydney
Leah Sydney
Leah Sydney writes from Los Angeles for A seasoned journalist with a long history during the halcyon days of the NY Daily News, Leah is a member of the Critics Choice and Rotten Tomatoes.

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