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Who's a busy boy? Actor-playwright Colman Domingo

Thursday, October 04, 2012 - Updated: 7:51 PM

NEW YORK (AP) -- Colman Domingo is finishing a new play that he also stars in. That might be enough work for some. But not Colman Domingo.

He can be seen in Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer," and next month he will be in Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner's "Lincoln" with Daniel Day-Lewis. There's also the comedy "HairBrained" with Brendan Fraser. And he just directed two one-man stage shows.

Next year, he'll appear in Lee Daniels' film "The Butler" featuring Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Alan Rickman. There's also "42" with Harrison Ford and "Lucky Dog" with Paul Rudd. In January, he'll be in Hong Kong filming the action flick "400 Boys" with Bingbing Li and Spanish actress Maria Valverde.

How does Domingo do all this?

"I do all this with a lot of vitamin B-12," the actor and writer says, laughing. "And a prayer -- and ginkgo biloba."

Domingo, the Tony Award-nominated star of "Passing Strange" and "The Scottsboro Boys," is putting the final touches on his play "Wild With Happy," which opens Oct. 9 at The Public Theater.

Touching on religion and faith, the four-person play is a comedy of manners that centers on an actor whose mother dies, leaving him with the question of what to do with her remains.

It's a deeply personal piece for an emerging playwright who also wrote the solo play "A Boy and His Soul." Domingo, 42, suffered twin losses in 2006 when his stepfather died on Valentine's Day and his mother died on the Feast of St. Valentine's on July 15.

Though heartbroken, the Philadelphia native thought there were lessons in his grief. "Maybe what I'm trying to do is heal others," he says. "I think what we're trying to do in theater is heal someone."

The Associated Press managed to corner Domingo for a few minutes to ask him about the new work, his previous jobs before he became so sought-after and how he juggles it all.


AP: Your mother's death inspired this work. How did you get past the sadness to create art?

Domingo: I realized that humor was the way to move forward. I can't fall apart every time I mention that my mother's gone. I actually laugh about stories or things or situations. Of course there's a wound that will never be patched up, but I approach it with humor. Of course, I don't overlook it and go straight for the humor, but I think we have to have humor to move forward.

AP: What's it like writing dialogue for yourself? Do you take it easy on your character?

Domingo: No! I'm stumbling over my own lines. I get line notes on stuff that I wrote! It's hard because all of a sudden I have to switch and think, 'How do I turn that dialogue into action for an actor?' And sometimes, because I am the playwright, I can actually change it and go, 'It comes out of my mouth better this way.'

AP: Before you made a living doing this, one of your part-time jobs was as a late-night bartender. What other jobs have you had?

Domingo: I still take head shots. I'm a head-shot photographer. I have people come to my apartment and I take their head shots. I still love to do it. That's what I was doing part time in between jobs. I thought, 'I'm good with a camera and people need head shots and I'll always make it very affordable.' I always thought, 'How much are they charging? No, they shouldn't be charging that -- it's digital. C'mon, I'll do it for half that.' I've also been a baker's assistant. I did telemarketing. I've had a lot of crappy jobs. I also had great jobs, too, like being an after-school program teacher in San Francisco. It was great.

AP: You played three characters in "Passing Strange" and 11 in "A Boy and His Soul." How many this time?

Domingo: One and a half. I play one and a half! He's not really a full character -- he's more like a half of a character. I know that sounds weird. I'll just say that.

AP: Do you ever sleep?

Domingo: It's funny. I find that I get enough sleep. I have time to go to the gym. I can even go for a walk. All the other time, I'm doing things that excite me so much that I'm just doing it full-out. When you're doing exactly what you want to do, it's not tiring. You've been planting these seeds and finally you have a full garden in bloom, you're like, 'Oh, I just want to smell the flowers and play among the flowers all day.' That's what I'm doing. I'm playing among the flowers.


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