Actor, heartthrob and new dad Taye Diggs makes medical-drama magic on his hit show Private Practice.
Hours after American Way
caught up with Taye Diggs at the Monte Carlo Television Festival, we spot him relaxing at the bar of the host venue’s main casino. He and a buddy are chatting up a multigenerational group of Midwestern women, and Diggs is charming them as they share stories about their careers, family life and aspirations for their children. Many Hollywood celebrities like to keep their distance from the adoring public, but when we sidle up to the bar next to him after the American clan departs, he says he likes the interaction. If people are cool with him, he’s cool with them.
This chance second encounter only cements the actor’s persona as an affable, laid-back and approachable individual who exudes Hollywood chic without the attitude. Diggs — who first came to mainstream attention in 1996 in the Tony-winning Broadway musical Rent, then turned heads as Angela Bassett’s sexy younger love interest in How Stella Got Her Groove Back and now is one of the leads on the TV medical drama Private Practice — makes it a point to stay grounded. “My friends and family help me keep my head small,” he says.
Beyond his success as an actor and co-founder of the Dre.dance company, Diggs has experienced many rewarding moments over the last year as a first-time father. He and his wife, Tony-winning stage actress and singer Idina Menzel, welcomed their son, Walker Nathaniel Diggs, last September, and the subject of fatherhood arouses a flood of emotion in him. “It has been great,” he says. “I’ve never had more respect for my wife. Motherhood suits her. I’m in a constant place of amazement and respect because every day my son is doing something new and exciting, and every day Idina continues to impress me.”
Being a father has also made some of the story lines on Private Practice hit much closer to home. “After having a kid, the story lines that deal with children take me aback,” he says. “You would hate to have any of that happen to anybody you know or anybody in your family.”
The medical experience that Diggs has attained playing internist/author Sam Bennett (aka Dr. Feelgood) on the show was admittedly of minimal use in real life when his wife gave birth. “We have great technical advisers on the show that make us look a lot smarter and better than we are,” he concedes. “It’s kind of like a dance — we get in, they teach us some choreography, and we memorize it. I’m the type of actor who learns something very quickly, but then I forget it even faster.”
Regardless of his less-than-stellar aptitude for retaining medical knowledge, Diggs would love to test his memory faculties further and work on Broadway again with his wife, whom he met while they were both acting in Rent. But his busy schedule may prevent that from happening anytime soon. “It’s kind of a gift and a curse having a show that’s having some success on TV,” he admits. “It’s great to be working and great to have a job, but at the same time, the longer the show goes on, the less amount of time I can spend in New York.”
The bicoastal Diggs seems to take the ups and downs in stride. This is an actor, after all, who parodied his own sex-symbol image by participating in the cheeky “Handsome Men’s Club” roundtable with Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Sting, Matt Damon and others on an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year. “At the end of the day, it feels good to have people appreciate you,” he says. “But I never take any of that stuff too seriously.”