Notable for his appearances in several musicals, Leslie Odom Jr. gained widespread recognition for playing Aaron Burr in Hamilton. The Broadway musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda chronicles the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, America’s founding father who was shot by his political rival, Aaron Burr, during a duel. Aside from Hamilton, Odom Jr. has played other notable roles in Smash and Leap of Faith. Meanwhile, Leslie has also made his mark in the world of music. To his credit are numerous songs including hit covers of “Good for You”, and “Under Pressure”, among others. Learn more about him below.
Who Is Leslie Odom Jr.?
Leslie Odom Jr. is an American artist who specializes in acting and singing. He was born on August 6, 1981, in Queens, New York City of New York, United States. He is of African descent. Odom Jr. grew up alongside his younger sister in Philadelphia, precisely in East Oak Lane where his family moved to in his early years. Growing up, he attended Julia R. Masterman School and subsequently the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, both in Philadelphia. Within this period, Leslie was also a member of the church choir where he usually took the solos.
His love for singing had started earlier as a child. At five, he already had a tape recorder with which he recorded and listened to his own voice for hours.
Leslie Odom Jr.’s journey towards acting, however, began after he won an African-American history oratory competition at 13 which earned him a scholarship to the Freedom Theater. He subsequently started performing in school plays, his first being in The Miracle Worker. Odom later made his musical theater debut in Rent at the age of 17, playing the role of Paul. On completing high school, he enrolled at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and studied Musical Theater. Following his graduation, he moved to Los Angeles later in 2003.
During his first years in LA, Leslie Odom Jr. mostly landed television roles and sang at clubs during his free time. He then landed a recurring role in CSI: Miami; the role lasted from 2003 to 2006. He then landed another recurring role on Vanished (2006). Leslie later portrayed a supporting character on the 2011 television film, Poe. Odom only returned to theater and Broadway in 2008 after he landed a role in the musical, Once on This Island. He, however, later moved to New York after he got the role of Sam Strickland in the musical TV series, Smash. Leslie subsequently played recurring character Peter Collier on Person of Interest (2013-2014). He also portrayed Rev. Curtis Scott, another recurring character in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2013-2015).
Aside from acting and singing, Leslie is also a writer. He authored his first book titled, Failing Up which Macmillan published in March 2018.
Leslie is also a husband and father. He married American actress, Nicolette Kloe Robinson on the 1st of December, 2012. The couple met in 2008 on the set of Once on This Island where Leslie Odom Jr. also worked as an assistant director. The couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Lucille Ruby, on 23rd April 2017.
Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr in ‘Hamilton’
Odom Jr’s journey towards playing Hamilton‘s Aaron Burr began in 2013 when creator and titular star, Lin-Manuel Miranda requested that Leslie join him in the early phase of the drama’s Act II workshop. Starting from his first day of rehearsals, it became crystal clear that Leslie was the best bet for the role, and he never disappointed. He joined the cast of the play as a replacement after the role of Aaron Burr became more demanding, especially vocally.
After he landed the role, Leslie did all he could to retain it. His magnetic performance brought to life the antihero persona of Aaron Burr, the strategic striver and jealous rival of Alexander Hamilton (portrayed by Miranda). He fell so much in love with the role that he rejected a leading role in an NBC thriller series, State of Affairs in order to keep playing Burr. Fortunately, Hamilton turned out to be a hit, earning Leslie a long-sought and widespread prominence.
In 2016, Odom Jr. won a Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical for his Aaron Burr role. Interestingly, he competed for the prize with co-star, Lin Manuel Miranda – just the way their characters rivaled in the play. Still, in 2016 and for the same role, Leslie won a Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album. He last appeared in the role on 9th July, 2016.
Other notable works that Leslie Odom Jr. has appeared in include Grey’s Anatomy, Supernatural, The Good Wife, Murder on the Orient Express, Big Day, NCIS: Los Angeles, and more.
Leslie Odom Jr.’s Music Career
In addition to being an actor, Leslie is a jazz singer, rapper and dancer. He made his official debut as a musician in 2014 with the released of a self-titled music album. In 2016, he signed with S-records for a four-album contract. Under the label, he recorded and produced an improved ad updated version of his debut album, Leslie Odom Jr. The album topped the Billboard Jazz chart on its release in June 2016.
Later in the year, precisely on November 11, Leslie released his second studio album titled, Simply Christmas. In October 2017, he released a deluxe version of the album with four more songs added to it.