Oscars: Colman Domingo second gay man to be nominated for playing a gay character

Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin in Netflix film Rustin

Colman Domingo made history on Tuesday (23 January) by becoming the second-ever gay man to be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of a gay character.

The actor earned an Academy Award nomination this week for Best Actor for his portrayal of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in Rustin.

He’s in good company alongside fellow nominees Bradley Cooper, Paul Giamatti, Cillian Murphy, and Jeffrey Wright. But Domingo is already celebrating a win for the LGBTQ+ community.

Colman Domingo stars as Bayard Rustin. (Netflix)
Colman Domingo stars as Bayard Rustin in Rustin. (Netflix)

Following in the footsteps of Sir Ian McKellen, Domingo is now the second gay actor in Oscars history to be nominated for playing a gay character.

While it’s common for straight actors to earn Oscar nominations for portraying LGBTQ+ characters – including this year’s nominee Bradley Cooper for his portrayal of Leonard Bernstein – a gay actor achieving the same feat is a rare sight.

McKellen broke the mold first in 1999 when he was nominated for his portrayal of gay director James Whale in Gods and Monsters – though he lost the Oscar to Roberto Benigni.

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Now Domingo, 54, is following suit, and has a real chance of going one step further and taking home the coveted statuette.

Sir Ian McKellen was the first gay actor to be Oscar-nominated for playing a gay role. (Getty)

That being said, this awards season has proven that Domingo isn’t an actor who can be boxed in by his sexuality. Movie lovers have had the privilege of seeing him in two vastly different roles this year.

As well as Rustin, Domingo starred as Celie’s abusive husband ‘Mister’ in the movie-musical adaption of The Color Purple.

Speaking to Deadline following his Oscar nomination, Domingo spoke about his impressive range.

“I know I’m existing in spaces that are unique in many ways,” he said. 

“At the same time I was representing Rustin, I’m also playing the leading man in The Color Purple, who has a very different experience. 

“The way I’ve been able to see myself in this industry is that I can play anything, and it’s not limited by my own personal sexuality.

Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin (L) with Johnny Ramey as partner Elias (R). (Netflix)
Colman Domingo is officially an Oscar nominee. (Netflix)

“People see me as I see myself, and being able to flex all these muscles and play all these different types of men, with very different experiences, hopefully, moves the needle a bit more… I’m a strong representation for that now, and there’s many more folks coming up right behind me.”

Domingo isn’t the only LGBTQ+ actor who could take home the Oscar this year for playing an LGBTQ+ role.

Jodie Foster is also in the running for what could be a historic win, after being nominated for her supporting role in Nyad.

In the Netflix biopic, Foster plays Bonnie Stoll, the friend and coach of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad.

Should either Domingo or Foster take home the Oscar this year, Sir Ian McKellen will likely be among the first to congratulate them.

In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, McKellen mused: “No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar; I wonder if that is prejudice or chance.”

Having been nominated for the Oscar twice, he admitted: “My speech has been in two jackets… ‘I’m proud to be the first openly gay man to win the Oscar.’ I’ve had to put it back in my pocket twice.”