PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Colman Domingo, Writer and Star of The Public's Wild With Happy

By Robert Simonson
10 Oct 2012

Domingo and Stew in Passing Strange.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

Why is it called Wild With Happy?
CD: Those words came out of one of my dearest friend's mouths when we were having this really beautiful experience. She said, "Look at everyone. They're wild with happy." That ecstatic state of happiness — people are always trying to find in their lives. Whatever that is — being happy is pretty awesome; but being "wild with happy"?

You were in Passing Strange at the Public. Did that make it easier to hand the Public this play to read?
CD: The Public has always been very supportive of me as an artist. They always knew that I was more than just an actor. Back in San Francisco, I was producing plays, writing plays. In New York, a lot of people didn't see me as that. But the Public has always invited me back, to see what else I can do. The moment I had my first draft, I sent it out to friends. Once the Public saw it, they were pretty immediate about moving on it.

Is there one you prefer over the other, acting or writing?
CD: I actually think I prefer writing. I've been acting for 22 years. Playwriting is still a whole new muscle, and I'm always intrigued on how to tell a story and how to invite an audience in. It's tricky. The kind of writer I am, I'm actually a collaborative writer. I like to write in the room with actors and a director. I'm not a private writer. I will write some dialogue, I will write some scenes, lay it out for my actors, and then play around. Robert O'Hara said I'm very much an actor's writer. I'm very focused on making the writing actable.

You've been doing a lot of acting in film lately — "Red Hook Summer," "Lincoln," "The Butler." Does the money that brings in give you more freedom to write?
CD: I think it does. I'm still reaping the benefits of that. The most beautiful thing for me is when I'm on location shooting a film. You're usually not called every day. When I have free time and am in a hotel and have a per diem, that's like workshop money. It's supporting my playwriting. During the time I was in New Orleans shooting "The Butler," I came out with a first draft of a new play.