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Colman Domingo Lost ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Role Because of Skin Tone

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Colman Domingo is one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood right now, but that wasn’t always the case — and it nearly caused him to quit the business altogether.

Domingo, 54, recalled one of the lowest moments of his career during a recent interview with The New York Times. In 2014, the actor had found success on the stage, but he wasn’t having as much luck with the screen. He thought things might turn around when he got a callback for the HBO show Boardwalk Empire, in which he’d auditioned to play a maître d’ at a Black-owned nightclub by singing and tap dancing for producers.

His agent soon informed him, however, that a historical researcher on the show told producers that those maître d’s were typically light-skinned, and because Domingo wasn’t, he didn’t get the role.

“That’s when I lost my mind,” Domingo told the newspaper, adding that he was in the gym when he heard the news and fell to the floor screaming. “I can’t take it anymore,” he recalled telling his agent. “I think this is going to kill me.”

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Domingo then went home, where he told his husband that he was ready to quit acting forever. He also fired his agent and signed with a new management team. He soon landed the career-changing role of Victor Strand on AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, and he’s been on a hot streak ever since.

“I don’t want to miss this moment,” he told The New York Times. “All the films, all the lights, all the accolades, all the beautiful critical responses — I want to bathe in all of that right now.”

Since his stint on Fear the Walking Dead began in 2015, Domingo has appeared in films including If Beale Street Could Talk, Zola, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Candyman and more. Last year, he took home an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Ali on Euphoria. Theatergoers can currently see him in two films that are both earning Oscar buzz: The Color Purple and Rustin.

In The Color Purple, Domingo plays Albert “Mister” Johnson, and in Rustin, he plays the titular civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.

Domingo noted in his New York Times interview that he’s now an “offer-only” actor, meaning that he doesn’t audition. “I became an actor that was ‘offer-only’ probably sooner than the industry thought I should have,” he explained. “But I decided I have a body of work. You can go and look at it, you can ask other directors about me, and you can make me the offer or not.”