Colman Domingo is not just an actor. He’s a storyteller, one that just received his first nomination for a Golden Globe for his turn in the new Netflix film Rustin. And before Domingo pulled up to the fabled red carpet on Sunday night, we caught up with the star, who is also promoting his role in The Color Purple, to chat about what story he was planning to tell.
It’s a good one, too, one that opens with a new chapter on fashion. “I’m driving in from Palm Springs to go to Los Angeles to do a fitting for my custom Louis Vuitton tuxedo, which is the very first time Pharrell’s collection is going to be on a red carpet. I wanted to collaborate with them and make sure that it was a moment for Louis Vuitton,” Domingo told us. “Knowing it’s my first time nominated for a Golden Globe, I wanted to think about how I want to feel.”
Of course, few know what it really feels like to be in the heat of awards season, advocating for your own work, and honoring those who did it with you. Domingo wants the red carpet to serve as part of his campaign, using style to convey something about his current professional moment. “A lot of times I do go for my own representation of the film, but I have been representing two high profile films—The Color Purple and Rustin—so for me, it’s about stepping into my leading man phase and less of my character actor with color and pattern. This is about seeing me as I see myself in a stronger, more commanding way,” the actor said. Come showtime, his custom black wool mandarin-collar tailored jacket with pearl buttons and matching tuxedo flared pants definitely commanded attention.
But let’s back up and get ready with Colman Domingo. Below, the star opens up about superstitions, grounding techniques, and award-winning advice—yeah, no more spoilers. Colman Domingo is the storyteller from here on out, and we’re all gathered around to hear what he has to say.
On How He Approaches Awards Shows
I’m just there to sip the champagne and dance like no one’s watching and have a good time. That’s what it’s all about. I can’t think about the result. I gotta have fun all the way.
When getting ready for any big event, it’s important to set yourself up for success. I go to the gym, I take some time to myself, I take a lot of quiet time, I make sure I eat a good meal, and I make sure that I talk to my family in some way. It sets me up to just enjoy the day. And it’s not about whether you’re taking home a trophy or not; it’s about did I have a good day. Did I make sure that this was a beautiful, beautiful day? That’s what’s important to me.
On Staying Present
I live in this constant state of joy and gratitude, and having a good time. And I think the more I just do that, the more I’m good. It keeps me from being nervous or thinking about the ending beats of this whole awards campaign. I’m thinking about moment to moment, and just what’s in front of me. I love getting dressed. I love meeting my community and talking to fans and people who are excited about what we’re doing. I feel like I don’t get too ahead of myself, which keeps me grounded and mindful.
I actually used to have this practice of looking at my hands before I went to any audition. Or if I wanted to get centered or grounded, I would look at my hands. Your hands show your nerves, energy. They have your lifelines, history. I even feel like I’m always looking at other people’s hands. It’s so fascinating to me, because there’s so much there.
On Dressing for The Globes
I always just try to be like, “Okay, what is the mood of the moment?” It’s always storytelling for me. I’ve already been getting ready and prepared for this. This time, we’re doing very elegant, clean lines, but with a slight military feel, because I wanted to feel powerful and strong. And I want to be present in the room. I don’t want to be shy. I want to be seen in the room, but I want to be seen in a very statuesque, strong, leading man frame.
On His Love of Storytelling
I come from a very working class family, and in order to make people see us, we had to define ourselves. And it starts with fashion. It starts with style. How do you walk down the street? How do you wear your hair? That’s why I change my style. Not a lot—I wear what looks good on me—but my style is always based on the story that I want to tell right now.
I can go back to anything and tell you exactly what the story was. Like when I go back to that hot pink Versace I wore at the Oscars. I put it on and my tailor started crying and said I had to wear that. And I said, “Really, why?” And she said, “After looking at all these black and white tuxedos, we’ve been in the pandemic, and people are starting to come outside, and they want to feel happy. That’s the color of happiness.” So I wore hot pink for the first time ever. And the response was insane because that’s exactly it—that’s the way people wanted and needed to feel.
On Knowing Your Place
It’s almost like being the bride or the bridesmaid. You need to know your place. Like, “Oh, I need to fall back on my style, I’m here to support my friends or colleagues. It’s not my moment.” You should know the difference. But when you know it’s your moment, yeah, put more lights on you. Go a little further. Bend the rules a bit more. But otherwise, know when it’s time to fall back. If I go to a friend’s premiere, or if I’m presenting at an award show, I really try to be a bit more subtle. I’m like, “No, it’s not about me. I’m gonna look good. I will look tasteful. I will look like I belong there. But I don’t want to look like I’m trying to take too much attention.”
On the Different Chapters of His Career
The chapter I’m most proud of is this chapter. I’ve always been a person who looks at what is right in front of them. Like I’ve had different, seminal moments in my career that were important to me. But each one is a building block. The last few years I’ve been doing films like If Beale Street Could Talk to Zola to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—they’re so diverse, and I feel like each one of them has a bit of my soul. These are things that I really believe are part of my legacy as I look at the path that I’ve created for myself. I want to do work that I feel is moving the needle, that’s human, interesting, charismatic, things that really stretch and bend with your gifts. I think I’ve been able to do that in a beautiful way. And that’s what I want to continue to do. Right now is an incredible moment; I’m representing two films that are truly meaningful to me and are examinations of Black men in the early 20th century, and how they’ve made such impacts—whether on families or generations. I think it’s profound that I’m standing in the middle of these two men.
On Prepping Acceptance Speeches
I’ve only written speeches for things that I was absolutely being honored for. I am superstitious about writing an acceptance speech for something I haven’t won. It’s got to be in the moment. I’ve got to think it through in some way, and hopefully have some words that make sense in the moment, but I’m a little superstitious about that. I’m not interested in writing a speech for something that I’m nominated for. It feels weird to me. I don’t know why. I have a good friend Rubén Blades. He always tells me—literally he’ll text me before any award show or something—and says, “Expect nothing. Hope for everything.” Like yeah, I have hopes like everyone else. Do I hope to stand on stages with my peers, holding something beautiful, and speaking? Yeah. Do I expect it? No. But do I hope for it? Why not?
Story by: Gaby Keiderling
Styling by: Wayman and Micah
Photos by: Linnea Stephen
Suit by: Louis Vuitton
Makeup by: Jamie Richmond
Hair by: Jacki Brown
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