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Euphoria” has come to be known for its over-the-top, well, everything. But one actor on the show who has managed to bring a grounded realness to every scene he is in is Colman Domingo.

Domingo, who plays the guest star role of Rue’s sponsor Ali, says Zendaya has told him how thankful she is when it’s time to work with him, as the scenes with him are so different than others she does on the series.

“It’s not as wild and colorful and glitzy,” Domingo tells Variety. “You can actually take a breath. And I know that that’s part of the function of Ali … I come in to serve a purpose and the purpose is some moments of grace, of levity, of interrogation, of honesty.”

Domingo views Ali as a “moral compass” on the hit HBO show, on which he occupies a unique role. Not only is Ali one of the few adults seen with any regularity, but he is the only one who is not a parent to one of the show’s characters. But Domingo says that he sees his character as a surrogate father to Rue.

“He’s providing the need, the thing that she needs, but he’s also getting something out of it, because he didn’t have a relationship with his two daughters,” he says.

The revelation that Ali has two estranged daughters added a new dimension to his character in Season 2. Ali opens up to Rue about his own failings as a father and husband after his addictions led him to become abusive, something he swore he would never do after his childhood experiences with his own father.

Domingo says he has made several private decisions about the character’s backstory beyond what is on the page to better inform his performance, but having Ali’s past spelled out in the show has only made him appreciate the character even more.

Season 2 saw Ali expand his presence within the world of the show as well, as he got to do scenes with Nika King and Storm Reid, who play Rue’s mother and sister, respectively, for the first time.

“I used to joke that Ali would think that Nika King’s character was fine,” Domingo says with a hearty laugh. “It’s very complicated because it shouldn’t happen, but it might because there are two people with needs, you know? And then Storm Reid is such an incredible young actress. She gives something very different than that. My function
was to let her be complete with her truth, to actually be angry at her sister, to actually have a lighthearted moment with her, to laugh.”

Domingo has nothing but praise for “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson, whom he credits with trusting actors on the show “to deliver” no matter what.

“He will write language for you that you’ve never been given as an actor so it’s such a challenge. Not only for yourself, but for audiences as well,” he says. “It really is tapping into the soul of the series.” Levinson is also very open to collaboration, Domingo says. To that end, he has called Domingo on multiple occasions to get his thoughts on a particular scene or monologue before filming.

Domingo goes on to say that, even though he is in few episodes of “Euphoria,” his years of working in theater have conditioned him to rehearse for hours and hours before he comes to the set.

“I will always work at least for 50 hours on what could be just one or two scenes,” he says. “But that’s the way I respect the work and the craft of all of it.” That preparation is critical to Ali’s character, as Domingo is well aware of the implications of portraying an addict onscreen and the risks that come with not doing justice to those who suffer from “the disease of addiction” in real life.

“You are representing the conversations, you’re representing the families, you’re representing the possibilities,” he says. “It’s a huge responsibility, so I don’t take that lightly.”