Tony Award-winning actor Leslie Odom Jr. is having a moment. Since leaving Hamilton, he’s released a Christmas album, toured with his band and wrote a book. He spoke to EBONY about if he would play a superhero in film and the love for his wife.
You played Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Do you miss it?
Less and less. When I first left, I had done over 400 shows. That’s enough to make a habit and they say it takes three weeks to make something a habit; I had done a little more than three weeks of Hamilton. It was what I did. I go to work, I get to do this fantastic material, I come home exhausted and I get up tomorrow and I do it again.
It felt like it was definitely the right time for me to go. There were many rivers to cross and mountains to climb; I had more work to do ahead of me. The first few weeks, first few months there were times that there was something missing. That happens less and less now.
There are men that I respect playing this part all around the world. That’s a really wonderful feeling and as a fan of these performers, and as a fan of the show, I get to go and sometimes watch my friends, guys that I’ve known for a long time, sink their teeth into this part and move me. Most importantly, I can be still moved by the show because I’m a fan like everybody else. I was one of the first Hamilton fans.
Any plans to go back on stage?
I would go back on stage in a heartbeat if the right thing came along. There’s nothing like live performing. I get my fill of it on the road at my concerts. I love the audience connection that I get to have in those intimate spaces and halls around the country. There is something special about playing a character and going on the journey of a narrative that you love. That’s a really special thing.
Black Panther has been very successful and we’re seeing Black people represented on screen. What’s your reaction to TV and film that has embraced the superhero theme? Would you ever want to play a superhero?
I think that what we’re seeing is that there was a lane that obviously people had a lot of interest in and a lot of love for, this superhero genre. You’re also seeing it in sci-fi, too, where historically this is not a lane that you really get to see people of color stretch out in. We haven’t really seen it in the mainstream in the way we’re seeing it today. What everyone is seeing and realizing is that there’s a market for it, there’s an audience for it. I think we’re going to see more of it. It’s a new frontier. This is a genre that, for some reason, people of color have been shut out of. I think that with the success of Wrinkle in Time with the success of Black Panther with the success of the shows we’re seeing on tv, of course, we’re going to see more of it.
Would you ever want to play a superhero?
Oh, sure. It’s all about the right fit. I enjoy being in the audience too, I enjoy being a fan. Not everything that I’m a fan of, there’s not always a place for me in everything I’m a fan of, there’s not always a spot for you in those things. In those situations, we get to champion something that we love. I went to see Get Out three times. If I met somebody who had not seen that movie I was like, “you have got to see this movie!”
So, if the part was right, if the moment was right, I would love to work with creative people on exciting projects, but if the moment doesn’t present itself, I’ll be a ticket buyer and a fan.
It’s Women’s History Month. Who are some influential women in your life, whether in the industry, personal life or in history, that you look up to?
My wife has been my greatest teacher, greatest friend I’ve ever had. Nobody’s taught me more, no one’s been a better friend to me and a better partner to me than Nicolette [Robinson.]
Not to mention, I saw this woman give birth to a human being. I saw [her] give birth without the assistance of any type of drugs. It was the most extraordinary thing that I have ever witnessed. I learned something about the woman I was married too, I learned something about the human experience, what all women go through. What they have to go through to bring life into this world…they face death, they literally come face to face with death to give life.
If my wife ever tells me she has a headache, I need to listen (laughs) because her pain threshold is a little bit more than mine. If she’s complaining, I need to take her words to heart.
I’m surrounded by strong, fierce powerful women. My mother was one. I was surrounded by strong, brilliant women in Hamilton. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through that run without Philipa [Soo] and Renée [Elise Goldsberry] and Sasha Hutchings.
I’m in awe, enamored with the opposite sex and this moment that they’re having, this moment of awakening that we’re all having is overdue and necessary and it makes me excited for the world that we’re going to raise our kid in. It makes me excited for Lucy’s [his daugter] future.
Are you referring to the #MeToo movement?
I am referring to that. It feels like today that there are things that wouldn’t have gotten as much attention 20 years ago that it would today. There’s a certain type of behavior that was overlooked or acceptable.
We’re not even talking about 50, 60 years ago, we’re talking about 10 years ago, we’re talking about two years ago. Especially in my business, it’s the kind of thing I know most about. In the entertainment industry this movement that you’re seeing…we’re not going to go back. It’s only going to go forward, it’s going to be a safer, more equitable work environment for women and that’s going to help everybody.