From Broadway’s “Rent” to the silver screen’s “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” to TV’s “Private Practice, actor Scott Leo ”Taye“ Diggs has entertained and strutted his way into the hearts of viewers. Those hearts broke a little with the news last year of his separation from Idina Menzel, his wife of 10 years. They have one son. Taye is an abreviation of Scottaye, which is what friends called him. The 43 year-old is now starring in TNT’s original series “Murder in the First” which premiers Monday, June 9 at 10 p.m.
Were you concerned about doing just another crime drama or did you find something special in this script?
Yes I did find something special and it doesn’t have necessarily anything to do with its success. It is more to do with my interest and my desire to participate. As an actor in this game, not knowing the future kind of goes with the territory. You jump in with both feet and hope for the best. I’m just thankful for the opportunities that I have had to have the chance to play another cop, and an ER doctor, you know all these different kinds of characters just gets added to the list. And this kind of new, exciting perspective of one case that spans the entire season.
Has it always been easy for you to slide into character?
Luckily it has always been in the writing so once I kind of say the words and get some wardrobe action going I get into character.
Is there a down side to becoming recognizable to the public?
I’m kind of lucky because I think of myself as a working actor and I’m not a Kim Kardashian who can’t step out of a building. You know when I’m through with this interview I will walk outside and there won’t be a throng of cameras following me. I’ll go to the gym and have a regular day. Every once in awhile there might be a blurb in a magazine, but if I want to get seen, I have to go and get seen as opposed to people coming to see me. I can’t really complain. I am in the perfect place where I can work consistently and reap the benefits of getting reservations or getting seats at the ball game.
In “Murder in the First” you play a guy with pent up frustrations about his wife dying. Are you the type to let things build up or are you more expressive?
I’m pretty expressive. Just having been an actor for awhile and having gone to a college that allowed me to major in musical theater, I’ve never had an issue expressing feelings. That being said, I’m a bit of a control freak. My body usually tells me what’s going on. Mentally, a lot of times, I will think everything is fine and if it’s not it will manifest itself in my body and then I will get sick. Then I’ll realize okay this must be stress.
Your mom was a teacher did she ever worry about you getting into a field that is so fickle as far as constant employment? Did she want you to have a backup career?
I don’t remember. I am in the process of writing a lot of personal stories down. So that is something I will actually ask my mother for this memoir. I know that I caught the bug from her. When she wasn’t working she was in community theater and also ended up going back to school for theater and dance so I attribute it to her and being around that vibe. That ensemble vibe is what attracted me to the stage. So she was always very encouraging. I don’t remember her ever saying “Maybe you should have a backup plan.” Maybe she saw I was talented enough at an early age and I wouldn’t need one. I don’t know if she didn’t want to mess with my own confidence. As soon as I knew I wanted to do this when I was young. Whether it was over confidence or cockiness, I knew this is what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. I got lucky I suppose.
That’s a good point. A parent, even with the best intentions, could derail your confidence by suggesting you need a plan B.
Yeah, yeah. I have a son, he’s only four, and he is already an amazing performer and the last thing I want him do is be a performer. [laughing] So at this point I am trying to cobble together someway of kind of exposing him to everything and hoping he’ll choose a different line of work.
Why wouldn’t you want him in the business? You have been successful and seen the best of it.
It’s just that when you have a kid you want the best for your kid and even though I have been quote unquote successful there is still a lot of heartbreak. It’s still very- you know you end up having to make yourself very vulnerable. I would never, ever want anyone to tell my son he wasn’t an amazing kid. I think I would take it harder than he would. Even me, I had it so easy, but my coming up through the ranks- there were some real let downs.
So you have to develop a coping mechanism for rejection, right?
Yeah and I don’t know many actors in hindsight even as successful as they are, who would say if they had it to do over again wouldn’t get another degree. You know you spend so much time on something that is emotionally based it would be nice to know another craft.
Last question, being a big basketball fan what do you think of the Donald Sterling situation?
[laughing] I have to do more research, I think it’s crazy. I mean I’ve put up with prejudiced people all my life, but my own issue is these people say they aren’t surprised by that he said all of these things . So if that’s the case then I feel like there is a bit of hypocrisy going on now. The fact that he got caught has no bearing on the fact that he said these things. I want to speak to people who knew he was this type of a person before and still didn’t say anything. There is all this hubbub now because he got caught but to me that’s not the point. He has his views, but then it is the people who knew he was racist and worked under him because they were still getting paid or what have you. I don’t know. I wish they’d pay more attention to that. It’s our society. How many people are afraid to say something or afraid to stand up or afraid to kind of reveal something about somebody because they have a job. You know,? I get that. I get it. You have a job and you want to keep the job, but then don’t jump on the bandwagon and say “Oh this guy’s so terrible, he needs to be gone” . It’s one or the other. Everybody gets caught up in the racist thing. People have been racist forever. I would respect someone who said I have worked under him this amount of time, I’ve known he’s like this. It’s a shame that he is like this, period. As opposed to he needs to be fined for this that to me is a hypocrite, which to me is much worse than a racist because you don’t know when or how they are just going to turn. You know what I mean?