• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2021: Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami”

By any objective standards, 2020 was an extraordinary year in the life and career of Leslie Odom Jr. He was in three major movies, each of which has been nominated for awards, as well as his role as Sam Cooke in Regina King’s One Night in Miami. After playing the part of William Burr in the stage version of Hamilton, Odom Jr. effortlessly transferred the magic onto the screen adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrical script. (He has already won a Tony and a Grammy for his work on Hamilton on Broadway). If that weren’t enough, he is also in Sia’s directorial debut, Music, which has also received several award nods so far this season.
The New York born actor has been working consistently in film and television since the late ‘90s, where he appeared in shows like Law and Order: SVU, Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy and CSI Miami among others. Odom Jr. (39) made his Broadway debut in 1998 in Rent and even sang during half time at the Super bowl in 2018. His range and the ease with which he moves between media has seen him somehow manage to successfully straddle film, TV, stage and singing without appearing to break even a moderate sweat.
Speaking to the HFPA recently about One Night in Miami, he was philosophical as he reflected on making things work.
“Certainly, I think my 20s, it was making peace with the part that I can’t control. That’s been the biggest part of my spiritual work, because there comes a point, look at us this year and the pandemic, you push as hard as you push, you work as hard, you’re in the gym, you’re meeting all the right people. And then there’s something that happens that you can’t control. The director knew someone, or it just didn’t work out. And so, making peace with that part, with the space between your effort and your ambition and the way the world is going to respond to you”, he said.
“Because even with One Night in Miami, this found its way to me. I didn’t seek this out the way I’ve sought out some other opportunities and thought, that’s going to take me where I want to go. This came to me. And then the fact that this year has opened up people’s hearts and made people tender in a way that they can receive a small movie in this way. The gratitude is baked into that because I didn’t have anything to do with that part.”
He will also be eligible for a Best Song Oscar for the song Speak Up, which he wrote for One Night in Miami, which he downplayed with characteristic modesty in a recent interview.
“My number got pulled,” he told Variety in a podcast. “I just didn’t want to do a wack Sam Cooke, I didn’t want to be bad, and have it wipe away any opportunity.”
Odom Jr. is a distinguished graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He credits seeing Def Poetry Jam when he was 17 with inspiring him to perform. He has recorded three albums of jazz and has gone on tour to promote them, performing concerts backed by a jazz quintet which includes a drummer, bassist, pianist and guitarist. His vast body of work also includes a motivational book written to inspire young people called Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher and Never Stop Learning, which was published in 2018 by Macmillan. In the event that readers might be put off or unable to relate to someone who has had the degree of professional success that Leslie has enjoyed, his book outlines the setbacks and rejections that preceded his success and extolls the virtue of resilience. He said he based the style on a commencement speech, exploring the importance of lifelong learning and the pursuit of passions.
Married since 2012 to fellow actress Nicolette Kloe Robinson, who has starred in the TV series The Affair and who played the lead in the Broadway musical Waitress. The couple has a daughter, Lucille Ruby.
The cornucopia does not end there, and the coming years look like they will be every bit as busy and diverse as up to now. He has four movies in development, including one with Kerry Washington.