Colman Domingo in the 2023 musical "The Color Purple."

‘The Color Purple’ Reactions Show Not Enough People Saw Colman Domingo’s Last Horrifying Role

When the trailer for The Color Purple musical dropped yesterday, discourse broke into several directions. Of the more semi-light-hearted takes, one was the number of people discussing how terrified they will be of Colman Domingo after this film. Taking on the role of Albert (a.k.a. Mister), Domingo plays one of the vilest Black characters in Black literature/film.

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Those reacting this way made reference to how the 1985 film version of the story, starring Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg, put Danny Glover in a very different light due to his role as Albert. They’re expecting the same to happen with Domingo, but this newfound “fear” of an excellent performance from Domingo leads me to believe not enough of y’all watched Zola.

Colman Domingo is everywhere.

Spoilers for Zola.

Colman Domingo as Abegunde "X" Olawale in "Zola."

Directed by Janicza Bravo, Zola is an imaginative take on a viral Twitter thread by Aziah “Zola” Wells. Told over about 48 hours, the story follows Zola from Detroit to Tampa on what’s supposed to be a journey to make a quick buck by stripping at a special event. However, Zola has been misled. By taking Stefani’s (Riley Keough) invitation, Zola is sex trafficked by X (Colman Domingo). X’s role may differ from Mister in many ways, but he and the situations he forces Zola into are unimaginably horrifying, both in the character’s actions and the performance of Domingo.

I know people laughed Zola off and made it sound like it would be like a live-action Emoji Movie, but it wasn’t! While a very different movie, the closest thing I can compare it to is Parasite, in the way that the highs will have you laughing out loud, yet there are very stressful elements of the film that can fill viewers with intense anxiety. Additionally, it has a unique approach to tackling a series of issues. The movie remains one of the best uses of social media in a film so far.

For the record, Domingo is an excellent actor (and writer), even outside of villain roles. He’s been in many films (in addition to stage work and TV) and played various characters. Among our favorites on staff at The Mary Sue are the role of Clementine’s father in James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) and Cutler in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020). Also, by year’s end, he will have played two prominent Civil Rights activists: Ralph Abernathy in Selma (2014) and Bayard Rustin in Rustin (2023). The man’s got range and 30 years of work—much of which is accessible! Only in the last few years has he gotten wider audience recognition for his work. That’s why I want him in a The Wiz! remake!

Since the book was first released, Mister has been a controversial figure. Domingo has the range not just to pull this character off but to speak on serious subjects with care.

(via Twitter, featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.