If you watched Only Murders in the Building, you’ll likely remember the most looming mystery in a show full of them, that of the Tie-Dye Guy. Present at several key points in the show, he was at last revealed to be Oscar Torres, the handsome friend of Mabel (Selena Gomez) and Tim (Julian Cihi), who was wrongfully accused of murder and recently released from prison. The Tie-Dye Guy became a hit online, partly for his boy-next-door good looks and for the chemistry he shares with Gomez’s character on-screen. Although only present for one season, Tie-Dye Guy made a splash, and the internet made waves back at Aaron Dominguez, the young actor under the multi-colored hoodie.
Dominguez has been riding that wave. Speaking to LATINA over Zoom, he’s humble and unassuming as he shares his early journey, but he grins broadly when he talks about his acting work. Born to Venezuelan parents, the emerging actor was always immersed in the performing arts: his father was a professional jazz and ballet dancer, and his mother was an actress and musician. They met in theater school and worked at now-defunct Radio Caracas TV, Venezuela’s most important independent television station before it was shut down by Hugo Chavez’s government in 2010. The family then moved to the United States, where Dominguez was born and raised.
Despite this artistic childhood, it took Dominguez a while to fully embrace the actor’s life. Though he began doing commercial acting work in Miami at a young age, the family eventually moved to the suburbs of Georgia, which Dominguez describes as a culture shock. Seeing his parents struggle to work in a new country made him contemplate a safer route, at one point almost going into sports journalism. After discovering that that path wasn’t for him, he shifted his focus back to local theater.
“I come from very humble beginnings,” he said. “Sometimes we were doing okay, sometimes we were doing very, very badly. That type of insecurity as a family was a bit traumatic growing up, and I didn’t know if I wanted to go through that [again]. The arts are the one thing where if you were lucky enough to catch a break it’s great, but there was beauty and terror in it: the beauty in the essence of being and doing what I love, but [the terror in] sacrificing a part of that stability in life. Growing up in that as a child, I thought ‘there’s no way.’”
As it goes, Dominguez was one of the lucky ones. Cast as a regular on Only Murders in the Building, the young creative could build off his past work in a more concentrated way. From minor roles to playing a regular and sharing screen time with Selena Gomez, Jane Lynch, and Steve Martin, Rodriguez described the experience as “life-altering.”
Despite catching his big break in a comedy-driven show, the young actor is not one to be tied to a genre. Near the end of last year, he branched out by appearing in The Inspection, a moving tale about Ellis French, played by Jeremy Pope of Pose, a gay Black soldier targeted because of his sexuality when he joins the Marines. Dominguez plays Castro, a soldier conflicted between submission to military culture and his own moral compass. Dominguez auditioned for the role while working on Only Murders in the Building after messaging director Elegance Bratton on Instagram to compliment him on the script. Castro’s supporting role, one of several that round out a layered ensemble, leaves room for the gray areas between ethics and social pressures. For a young actor like Dominguez, it was a meaty role that pushed his craft.
To be a Latino actor is to stay worried about being typecasted, even in 2023 as the arts and entertainment industries have faced a reckoning with representation. There is not one kind of Latino person and being Latino is not a race, and yet often Latino characters are written in such a way that they are exoticized and even villainized. “I am trying to fine tune the roles that I want to play,” he says. “Comedy is actually always something I steered away from because I find it so challenging. The Inspection was more in tune with the emotional aspect of the human experience. Those are the types of films I’ve always wanted to be a part of: things that challenge the status quo. I’ve been fortunate to have had opportunities in comedy and drama, because sometimes in the industry you can get pigeonholed.”
When it comes to Venezuelan representation in media, consider Gian Franco Rodriguez’s turn as Victor Hugo, Halston’s lover on the eponymous Netflix show. In the show and in real life, Hugo was regarded as a dubious character, who despite his own ambitions and the art he created went down in fashion history as a “Venezuelan call boy,” in the words of the late and great André Leon Talley. It’s maybe not a step in the right direction as far as positive representation on screen, but he did introduce a lot of people to arepas Venezolanas.
“That role was amazing,” Dominguez remarked with a laugh. “There’s been times where I’ve told my own family that there’s such a lack of representation — or there’s been misrepresentation — of how Latinos are [portrayed]. They throw us all in the same row, so it’s key to raise awareness that every country has a different culture.”
The conversation veers into who he wants to work with in the future: “Oscar Isaac, Antonio Banderas for sure, Tom Hardy, and Denzel Washington,” he said as we dug further into the representation and audience understanding. He’s excited for the future, and he should be; he appeared in the series finale of the (since cancelled) Gossip Girl reboot on HBO. Dominguez has a bright career ahead of him. More importantly, he’s aware that he’s lifting as he climbs, and by being visible he’s giving a new generation of young Latino actors another example that it’s possible to make it in Hollywood.
“It’s a double-edged sword, because the role should go to the people that are best for the role and that identify or that are giving truth [to the character], but at the same time, to what extent are we going to draw the line? I don’t want to be stereotyped into just playing in one segment or one role or just a Latino role. We’re everywhere; we make up so much of the population, not only this country, but all the world. We also exist in all the other spaces, especially artistically.”
You can watch all episodes of Only Murders in the Building exclusively on Hulu. The Inspection is currently available to stream on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and more.