Taye Diggs is hanging up his acting shoes, but not for good. He is slated to become an artist in residence for the theater department at the University of Missouri.
With an extensive background in musical theater, the 50-year-old Taye Diggs will be working with students who are seeking a new minor in musical theater, more centered around those who have advanced musical theater performance classes.
The University of Missouri’s artist in residence is a new program at the university having started in 2019. Past artists who have appeared at the college have worked on graphic design, documentary filmmaking, poetry, and other artistic endeavors. Taye Diggs will be the very first artist in residence for the theatrical department.
While it may come as a surprise to some who have not followed Taye Diggs’ career as closely as others, this is not his first go-around as mentor, teacher, and choreographer. Diggs has taught dance at the Broadway Dance Center in New York City as well as The Edge Dance Studio and The Millennium Dance Complex, both in Los Angeles. He has also spent time teaching or choreographing at the Syracuse University Dance Program, Busch Gardens Choreography Workshop, Ohio Mission Academy, and Rochester School of the Arts. So, his foray into the artist in residence program at the University of Missouri is not uncommon to the vastly talented Diggs.
Early Taye Diggs
Taye Diggs’s career actually began with musical theater. Throughout his formative high school days, Diggs completed his learnings at the School of Arts in Rochester, New York, then received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater at Syracuse University. His goal was to be a big Broadway star, which he eventually accomplished, but life’s little twists and turns moved him toward television and film.
Taye Diggs made his Broadway debut as part of the ensemble cast of the 1994 Tony-award-winning musical revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Diggs also spent some time at Tokyo Disneyland in 1995 where he was a dancer in Sebastian’s Caribbean Carnival.
Taye Diggs’s musical career continued over the next couple of years. He was the originator of the role of landlord Benny in the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent, which also starred future wife Idina Menzel (or as John Travolta preferred to call her, Adell Dazim). The two would star together next in an off-Broadway production of The Wild Party. The couple worked together again when Diggs filled in for Norbert Leo Butz in the musical Wicked, playing Fiyero, the love interest to Elphaba, played by Menzel.
Becoming A Hollywood Star
The first time Taye Diggs hit the small screen was on the long-running soap opera Guiding Light. He would then get a little more small-screen action on the TV series New York Undercover and Law & Order before making his big-screen debut on the 1998 feature How Stella Got Her Groove Back opposite Angela Bassett. A star was born as Diggs followed that feature with The Wood, The Best Man, and the schlocky horror film remake and underrated House on Haunted Hill.
After a few more films, which included a return to the small screen for a 10-episode arc on Ally McBeal, Diggs was able to return to his Broadway roots, so to speak, with his role as Bandleader in the film version of the musical Chicago. A couple of years later would see Taye Diggs do the same when the feature film version of Rent premiered, and he played the role of Benjamin Coffin III. Diggs would appear in a guest role as Will Truman’s love interest on the hit show Will & Grace and then had probably his most well-known TV role when he co-starred with Kate Walsh, Tim Daly, KaDee Strickland, Amy Brenneman, Brian Benben, and Paul Adelstein on the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Private Practice. The series followed Walsh’s Addison Montgomery, who relocated to Los Angeles from Seattle into a private practice within the Seaside Wellness Center. Diggs played Dr. Sam Bennett for the series’ entire six-season run.
Taye Diggs Goes His Own Way
While Taye Diggs continued to enjoy time on both the big screen and small, he was never far away from his first love, Broadway. In 2004, he went all-in when he, along with longtime friend and talented choreographer Andrew Palermo founded the dre.dance company.
According to Palermo, getting the dance company off the ground was no easy feat. Or should we say “feet” (get it?). “It’s been like any young small business; it’s been a roller coaster,” Palermo said via Flavorwire. “I think that we benefit from Taye’s celebrity and it hurts us sometimes, and that’s something we’ve had to learn over the years. Like, we’ll try to apply for a grant and they won’t even let us apply. They’ll say, “You’ve got Taye Diggs’ wallet.” And we’re making sure that people know we’re legit and that we’re not his vanity project. We don’t like trying to act like we’re the fiercest thing out there. If we wanted to be on Regis and Kelly we could but we don’t take those opportunities all the time because it doesn’t feel like we’ve warranted it yet.” Since that time, Diggs and Palermo’s dance crew has received and earned critical praise for their inventive and amazing performance across the globe.
You thought Taye Diggs was only an actor, a singer, a dancer, a teacher, and a choreographer? Well, you would be wrong. Diggs is also a noted author of children’s books. Diggs has put pen to paper on four books, Mixed Me!, Chocolate Me, I Love You More Than…, and My Friend!. All four books were illustrated by artist Shane Evans.
Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel married in 2003 after starring together on a few Broadway ventures. They have one child from their marriage but the two called it quits after 11 years.
Taye Diggs continues to balance his life between Broadway and features/TV. He was Hedwig in the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch while also appearing in the series Murder in the First, Empire, and All-American. While his new gig at the University of Missouri looks to take up some of his acting time, it won’t take him for good. He does have one feature film lined up in the near future which, coincidentally, is called While You Were Dancing.