Colman Domingo Lost Out on ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Role Because He Wasn’t ‘Light-Skinned’

Colman Domingo attends the opening night screening of "Rustin" at the HBCU First Look Film Festival in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 10, 2023. (Credit: Netflix)

Colman Domingo is generating awards buzz with his performances in Rustin and The Color Purple.

But nine years ago, the actor says he was struggling to land under five parts — roles with less than five lines of dialogue.

One of those parts was as a maître d’ at a nightclub in the HBO period drama Boardwalk Empire.

In a new interview with the New York Times, Domingo recalled auditioning for a small part on the series in 2014, and having his hopes dashed.

“This is the one that’s going to change it up for me,” he recalled thinking at the time. “This is the one that’s going to finally be my big break.”

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Domingo had already made a name for himself in stage productions, and went all-out for the TV audition. He said he tap-danced and sang in a tuxedo for producers — and thought he nailed the audition.

He got a callback, but his hopes were dashed when his agent told him the producers “passed” after being reminded by one of the show’s historical researchers that Black maître d’s in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the 1920s were usually “light-skinned.”

Domingo, 54, told The Times he was devastated.

“That’s when I lost my mind,” he said. He told his agent, “I can’t take it anymore, I think this is going to kill me.”

He went home and informed his husband that he was ready to give up acting. Instead, he pressed on, and started to get small parts in films and TV shows. His big break came on the AMC spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which premiered in 2015.

Since then, things have continued to look up. He landed parts in the films If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) and Candyman (2021).

Last year, the Philadelphia native won an Emmy Award for his guest role on HBO’s Euphoria.

Domingo is currently nominated for a best actor Golden Globe for his portrayal of Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin in the Netflix drama Rustin.

He’s also making headlines for his performance as Celie’s abusive husband Mister in The Color Purple.