In Hollywood, there’s a lot of different types of people. It’s very rare to find someone who is talented, successful and humble. However, if you look hard enough, you’ll come across some gems that not only renew your faith in the business, but inspire you to become better yourself.
Aaron Dominguez is one of those people. Sitting down with host Brian Calle for a special on-campus edition of the L.A. Weekly Weekly Podcast at Chapman University, this rising star gives us some honest insight on what it’s like to chase your dreams, and gives us a tease of what to expect from the season finale of his hit Hulu show, Only Murders in the Building, coming up on October 19.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What sparked the light inside him that drove him to become an actor? It’s not a simple question to answer. You could say it began at conception. Hailing from Venezuela, Dominguez’s parents met at theater school. His father was an actor and a jazz/ballet dancer, while his mother was a singer/songwriter and actress.
“So it was in the making already,” smiles the star. “I started at a very young age doing theater because my parents were very involved in the theatre circuit in Miami – especially in the Latino theater [community].”
Moving from South America to Miami at the beginning of the ’90s, the couple raised their son among their passions, inspiring and encouraging creative expression from day one.
“I grew up watching them perform, which was for me, everything as a child,” he continues. “My dad was like my hero and my mom as well, seeing her perform and sing, and seeing my dad dance…. So from an early age me and both of my siblings – older brother, older sister – were all kind of foisted into that, while still given the freedom to do as well please.”
While growing up among creatives may seem like an obvious seed in which a love of the arts may flourish, he didn’t always see himself following in his parents’ footsteps.
“There was a bit of uncertainty there. At an early age I didn’t like the inconsistency within the arts, any type of art, whether you expressed it through painting, singing, dancing,” he confides. While one’s own interpretation of those inconsistencies may vary with personal experience, it was the inconsistency of stability that young Dominguez struggled with the most.
“The inconsistency within finances, the inconsistency within work, the fact sometimes that if you are a theater actor or you chose to pursue theater, there’s not – if we are being honest and there’s no bullshit – a lot of money involved in that for productions to go through and through, and to even make money,” he explains. “As a kid, to live in financial instability was very, very hard. I come from very, very humble beginnings.”
An origin story that resonates with so many of us, it’s hard to take a leap of faith on big dreams when you’ve seen – and lived – with firsthand knowledge of how hard it can be and how insurmountable the challenges will feel. Our childhood experiences impact our adult lives in ways both big and small, for better or for worse.
Much like the theatre of Dominguez’s youth, Hollywood sitcoms are feast or famine. Some pilots are never seen, shows are picked up and dropped at lightning speed, and from an outsider’s (and many insiders’) perspective, these things happen without rhyme or reason. You could be wrapping season two of one of the most popular shows on Netflix, only to find out that despite your top 10 status, you’ve been canceled without a chance to finish your story (we’ll never forgive Netflix for canceling The OA).
What does this mean for the actors and actresses of your favorite shows? It means that they must have good money management and an almost superhuman ability to hustle. You could be rich one year thanks to your involvement in a viral hit, but poor the next due to the flighty favor of network execs.
Aaron Dominguez understood that as a child, and now, it’s his career.
“If anyone in this room is wanting to pursue anything in the arts,” says the actor, gesturing to eager students, “you’ve got to have a thick skin, you’ve got to learn how to maneuver through those things and learn from an early perspective that just know that you have to count your pennies and nickels because you’re not secure in the next job, you’re not promised the next job.”
Despite experiencing it in his youth and trying to find an alternate path to pursue, Dominguez couldn’t give up the siren song of the performer gene he was born with.
“Even in those moments of catharsis at an early age, I still grew up doing theatre,” he shares. “My parents ended up creating and owning their own theatre company. So I was very, very heavily involved in that.”
After a brief stint with broadcast journalism in college, our guest had an epiphany one day while sitting bored in a class he had no interest in: he needed to act. So he got up, left, and got to work doing just that.
“It was hard at the beginning, because I didn’t feel like there was much footing,” he says. Living in Georgia at the time, there weren’t a lot of options for him to explore. To support himself, he worked any and every job – corporate, construction – while hustling for his art and searching for his big break.
He landed his big break as a supporting role – without an agent, just drive – and a director took a chance on him and fanned his flames. After getting a taste of the thrill of being immersed in his dream career, there was no stopping him.
His hard work (and father’s tough love) paid off, and today he plays Oscar in Hulu’s murder mystery hit Only Murders in the Building, starring alongside film and television legends Martin Short and Steve Martin, as well as superstar Selena Gomez (to whom he plays the enigmatic love interest).
Following the story of a trio of true-crime podcast aficionados who find themselves immersed in their own true crime story as it unfolds, Dominguez’s character Oscar – also known as “Tie-Dye Guy” – finds himself integral to the story. So integral, in fact, that some may call him a murderer.
Who killed Tim Kono? Aaron won’t tell us, but he’s convinced that we will love what the season finale has in store for fans. Tune in to see it for yourself on Hulu, October 19 at 12 a.m. ET.
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