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Leslie Odom Jr.

Leslie Odom Jr.: “We have to make room for all of it”

April 14, 2021
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Mr. Odom Jr., looking back, which of your roles has had the greatest impact on your perspective as an actor?

I think with Hamilton, there was something that I suspected about myself: I just thought that I was capable of more than I’m being asked to do in this business. As I watched my white brothers and sisters rise up the ladder, I was happy for them but I felt like if I was given a shot I could do something, if I was allowed to do more than just what I’m being asked to do in the margins — because we are constantly pushed into margins. So, Lin brought us all into the room and asked the most of us, and we got to prove to ourselves what we were capable of. Leaving that show, I would never again have to ask myself if I was capable of something great. I know now, if I’m given the material and the resources, if I’m given the opportunity, I can do something great too.

Does knowing what you’re capable of also make it easier to say no to the roles that aren’t right for you — or have you made some tough decisions over the years?

It’s not tough for me. That’s your integrity. I tell that to young people, you don’t sell yourself out, you don’t sell yourself short, you don’t sell your people out for anything, even if it means some hungry nights for a bit. You’ll make mistakes, we all make mistakes, and film is a great gamble. You don’t know when you accept a film! Sometimes it doesn’t work, and it’s a miracle when it does. But you can’t go in knowingly taking something that you think is going to be damaging or detrimental to your people, not for anything. So that’s not hard.

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Last week’s Interview
Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste: “I’m a link in a chain”

April 7, 2021
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Mr. Batiste, do you believe in magic where music is concerned?

Definitely! I think there's something that we can’t explain in words, which is why music is so powerful. It is the universal language. There’s something about sound and the transference of energy through sound that can't really be put into a science — I mean, of course, you can get a science to it up until a certain point; I've studied music, rhythm, harmony, theory, all different aspects of music for many years, but I still approach it like a child because I think the deepest, most impactful stuff in music can't necessarily be explained scientifically. And that is, to me, the definition of magic.

What kind of deep impactful stuff are you talking about?

Well, for many of us, we can get discouraged by life. Music is one of those things that gives you an opportunity to have a release. The tension that you carry can be channeled into something that connects you to the thing that's bigger than us: the creator who created everything that has any form of inspiration and love and light in it. That's what connects us all. And that's joyous! It makes you realize that even after death, there's something that is greater than us — and things like music and art point to that. It's a spiritual practice every day to stay connected to that ultimate source, to feed the divine parts, and to starve the other parts.