Taye Diggs is getting his own groove back. He first came to many people’s attention on the New York stage: first in the 1994 Broadway production of Carousel (opposite future TV co-star Audra McDonald), and then in the original Off-Broadway and Broadway casts of Rent – where he met his wife, Tony Award winner Idina Menzel – and later in the smash hit Wicked.
More recently, the sexy superstar has spent his time in the worlds of film and television, including starring for the past six years on ABC’s Private Practice as Dr. Sam Bennett. And for the past three years, he’s been a loving dad to his and Menzel’s son, Walker Nathaniel.
A musical performer at heart, Diggs is now making time in his busy schedule to try out some concert gigs, including a recent one at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. TheaterMania spoke to Diggs about his new venture, life with Menzel and their son, and why he wrote his book, Chocolate Me!
THEATERMANIA: What made you decide to flex those musical theater muscles again?
TAYE DIGGS: After watching Idina on stage and seeing how amazing she is and how much fun she’s having, I wanted to kind of go back to my roots and challenge myself. I’m one of these performers who loves being on stage, but at the same time, when it’s just me, I get petrified. So my first challenge was to do a concert by myself, kind of cabaret style, and I got through that. Now I’m adding the element of movement, because I haven’t seen many people do that kind of thing on their own with the band behind them and then also move. So I’m mixing a little bit of Sammy Davis Jr. with a little bit of Usher and a little bit of I don’t know. I’m hoping that I will enjoy the idea of being on stage alone a little bit more once I move.
TM: How has being a father changed you so far?
TD: I’m constantly thinking about my son. What I most feel is the vulnerability. I’ve never prayed more than I do since he entered my life. You would think that being a father would hit a strength in you — coming to the realization that you brought someone into the earth. Instead, I’ve never felt more weak and vulnerable, just because of how much I love this person.
TM: How has being a parent affected your marriage?
TD: Seeing Idina as a mother has had a wonderfully positive effect. There aren’t many things that are sexier than just watching the bond that exists between her and Walker — seeing their similarities when they’re together, and all the parts of her that I love the most.
TM: You wrote a book called Chocolate Me! with Shane Evans last year. What prompted that?
TD: The book is based on a poem that I wrote while I was in college, based on a period of my life when I was around five years old. The first time I read that book to my son was one of the more moving activities that we have done together.
TM: You wrote about when you were the only black kid in your neighborhood. When do you think it will be time to talk to your son about race?
TD: I don’t know. We’re figuring that out as we go along. One thing that I’m realizing is that I am nowhere near the father I thought I would be. I also had no idea what kind of a human being Walker was going to be. It was easy prior to him being born to say, “Oh, I’m gonna discipline him like this or I’m gonna feed him like this.” So I’m learning from my experiences and we’re just gonna try and be in the moment and let time and his experiences kind of dictate how we handle that.