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 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 abbreviation of "Scottaye," the nickname friends gave him. The actor, 43, is starring in the original TNT series "Murder in the First" (10 p.m. Mondays). Here are excerpts from an interview about the show, his life and his career:
Q Were you concerned you'd be doing just another crime drama, or did you find something special in the "Murder in the First" scripts?
A Yes, I did find something special, and it doesn't have necessarily anything to do with (the show's) success. It has 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 chance to play these different kinds of characters (that) get added to the list, (along with) this new, exciting perspective of one case that spans the entire season.
Q Is it easy for you to slide into character?
A Once I ... say the words and get some wardrobe action going, I get into character.
Q Is there a downside to being recognizable to the public?
A I think of myself as a working actor. I'm not a Kim Kardashian, who can't step out of a building. 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 a while there might be a blurb in a magazine, but if I want to get seen, I have to go and get seen. I can't really complain. I am in the perfect place. I can work consistently and reap the benefits of getting reservations or getting seats at the ballgame.
Q In "Murder in the First" you play a guy with pent-up frustrations about his wife dying. Are you the type who lets frustrations build up, or are you more expressive?
A I'm pretty expressive. Having been an actor ... 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, I will think everything is fine, and if it's not, it will manifest itself in my body, and I will get sick. Then I'll realize OK, this must be stress.
Q Your mom was a teacher. Did she ever worry about you getting into a field that is so fickle as acting? Did she want you to have a backup career?
A I don't remember. I am in the process of writing a lot of personal stories down. So that is something I will ask my mother for this memoir. I know that I caught the (acting) 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. 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, and I wouldn't need one. I knew this is what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. I got lucky, I suppose.
Q That's a good point. A parent, even with the best intentions, could derail your confidence by suggesting you need a Plan B.
A Yeah. I have a son. He's only 4, and he is already an amazing performer. The last thing I want him to do is be a performer. (Laughs.) So at this point I am trying to cobble together some way of exposing him to everything, and hoping he'll choose a different line of work.
Q Why wouldn't you want him in the business? You have been successful.
A Even though I have been quote-successful-unquote, there is still a lot of heartbreak. 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. I had it so easy, but coming up through the ranks there were some real letdowns.