Fear the Walking Dead star is famed gay civil rights activist in first trailer for Rustin

Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin (L) with Johnny Ramey as partner Elias (R). (Netflix)

The official trailer for Netflix’s eagerly-anticipated Bayard Rustin biopic starring Fear the Walking Dead‘s Colman Domingo has finally landed – and the civil rights activist’s identity as a gay Black man takes centre stage.

The already acclaimed filmdirected by Tony winner George C. Wolfe and executive produced by the Obamas charts events leading up to the historic 1963 civil rights march in Washington DC, where Martin Luther King delivered his famed “I Have a Dream” speech.

Despite playing a pivotal role as “the architect of 1963’s momentous March on Washington” – attended by more than a quarter of a million people – Rustin’s contribution to the civil rights movement was largely downplayed at the time due to his vocal identity as a gay man.

The activist was criminalised for having consensual gay sex in 1953 before being posthumously pardoned by California governor Gavin Newsom in February 2020.

The two-minute trailer for Rustin, released on Thursday (19 October), kicks off with Bayard Rustin calling to “put together the largest peaceful protest made up of angelic troublemakers” as he begins rallying young and veteran civil rights activist to his cause.

The cast also features Chris Rock as prominent activist Roy Wilkins; Glynn Turman as African-American labour unionist A. Philip Randolph; Audra McDonald as human rights activist Ella Baker; and Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King.

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As his vision gains momentum, Rustin must battle people both inside and outside his community as he tries to unapologetically live his life as a gay Black man. “When it comes to the old guard, I’m considered a pariah,” Rustin says in the trailer.

His sexuality is put under harsh spotlight as allies and enemies alike attempt to ostracise him from the civil rights movement. “Why is everyone so obsessed with what I’m doing and with whom?” Rustin asks.

Colman Domingo plays gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin in Netflix biopic.
Colman Domingo plays gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin in Netflix biopic. (Netflix)

This reclamation of Rustin’s narrative does not shy away from his love life, with Gus Halper and Johnny Ramey both playing his lovers at various points during the film.

“I can’t surrender my differences, the world won’t let me,” Rustin proclaims, as he champions intersectionality and oppressed communities working together for a better future.

“What they really want to destroy is all of us coming together and demanding this country change,” he adds.

The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, has been praised as “outstanding” and a “career-defining performance” for Domingo.

Rustin opens in cinemas this November. It arrives on Netflix on 17 November, 2023.