Colman Domingo Is Expecting a Call From Barack and Michelle Obama After His Oscar Nomination (Exclusive)

The first-time nominee opened up to ET about being recognized for his role as gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in 'Rustin.'

Colman Domingo is a first-time Oscar nominee, and he couldn't be more thrilled to celebrate the moment -- and the important role -- that brought him into the Academy spotlight.

The actor spoke with ET's Kevin Frazier on Tuesday, shortly after the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards were announced, and he was officially recognized with a Best Actor nod for his role as gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in the George C. Wolfe-directed biopic, Rustin

"It's the work that we hope to do as actors," Domingo said of telling Rustin's story in the film. "We wish we're given an opportunity like this. And now, acknowledgement like this, that's the icing on the cake."

"He's no longer marginalized in history books," he added of his character, a pivotal civil rights leader and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. "His efforts, what he did, what he gave, what he dedicated his life to, mattered and it matters to many people. People recognize it now, and if I've been any small part... I would say, we've changed the course of history. We've righted some wrongs."


Domingo -- who has already been nominated at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, BAFTAs, SAG Awards and more -- told ET that he was restless on Tuesday morning waiting for Oscar nominations to be announced. He recalled pacing around his house and organizing his closet, just to have something to do while his husband, Raúl Domingo, watched the livestream of the nominations.

Then his phone pinged, with a message from his agents.

"I literally picked up the phone, and it said, 'Congratulations, Oscar nominee!'" Domingo shared. "I was just like, I don't know. It's done."

"Then I hear it come from Raúl's feed, and then he just literally lays on the floor and starts crying, and he's so happy and proud," he added with a smile. "I pick him up, and we just have a beautiful moment in front of the fireplace. There just was so much joy to this moment."

Together, Domingo and Jodie Foster made Oscar history on Tuesday, as the nominations marked the first time two openly LGBTQ actors have been nominated for playing LGBTQ characters. (Foster received a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role as Bonnie Stoll in Nyad.)

"It means so much," Domingo said of the Academy's recognition, "not only as an actor, being a journeyman for 33 years, for representing West Philly and Black folks, and Afro-Latinos and queer people. I think everybody was rooting for me and wanting me to exist in this space, and it feels like a great win for all of us."

Rustin was produced in part by Barack and Michelle Obama's production company, Higher Ground, and the actor joked to ET that he was still waiting for his congratulatory call from the powerful couple.

"I have a feeling they're in a different time zone but... I’m waiting for that call," he laughed. "I know that they will call me. So the moment I see 'No Name' on here, I know it's them... no caller ID is either Oprah or Barack Obama."

And while Domingo said that Raúl will of course be his Oscars date, he hopes the former first couple will also join the Rustin team at the Academy Awards.

"The way they've championed this story -- Barack Obama, I mean, he gave Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- I think it's a moment for them that they chose this story to be their first narrative feature," he praised. "I want them sitting right on the other side of me from my husband."

For now, however, Domingo is just embracing the moment as a newly minted, and ecstatically grateful, Oscar nominee.

"I started out just wanting to be a regional theater actor and do good work going around the country and building communities," he recalled. "My parents' dream was for me to just be happy. They didn't want me to have a job. They wanted me to have something where I feel like I have purpose and intention. And this is it. And so this is work of 33 years -- to be acknowledged like this, it's beyond my wildest imagination."

The 96th Academy Awards will be presented live from the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at 7 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. PT on ABC. Until then, keep checking for complete Oscars coverage.