Arguably, this summer is the “Summer of “Hamilton,” and with that heat comes the season of Leslie Odom Jr., the Philly area native who won a Tony Award for Hamilton and as Best Actor in a Musical for his onstage role as Aaron Burr.
Raised near Germantown’s Canaan Baptist Church, where he performed solos in the choir (“my voice just came out that way, better suited to gospel, jazz, and soul,” he once told me), Odom relied on local mentors such as those at Masterman School and Broad Street’s Freedom Theater to guide him through the dramatic arts.
Though Odom Jr. has busied himself with albums such as his most recent “Mr.,” animated comedies such as “Central Park,” and films such as the first Kenneth Branagh-directed “Murder on the Orient Express” since his Tony victory, there hasn’t been anything that has showcased the full range of his talents – or tested him as a performer – as did Hamilton.
The first thing audiences can find Odom Jr. in that has the meat and the heft and the flair that Aaron Burr had is the Freeform miniseries, “Love in the Time of Corona,” which now can also be viewed on Hulu to boot.
A scripted dramedy filmed in the Los Angeles home he shares with his co-star, actress-wife Nicolette Robinson, the story finds Odom Jr.’s rambling acting character – a young married – spending more time than ever before together with his spouse while in quarantine. Created by Joanna Johnson, Love in the Time of Corona’s four-part series (which also stars Lancaster, PA actor Rya Kihlstedt and her real-life husband, Gil Bellows) reveals the intimate nooks, crannies and nuances of Odom Jr.’s true self. Or his true acting self.
“I actually spent quarantine like a lot of people, in the same black sweatpants and black T-shirts,” Odom let slip to the New York Times in a feature about Making Television Mid-Pandemic.
The other Odom Jr. showcase set to follow for late fall is “One Night in Miami,” a colorful Civil Rights-era, Black hero flick filmed by first time director Regina King with Leslie playing the legendary Sam Cooke, Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, Aldis Hodge as Jim Brown, and Kingsley Ben‑Adir as Malcolm X. Gathered on the evening that Clay (later Muhamad Ali) beat Sonny Liston for the boxing world championship, One Night in Miami has its virtual world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and was purchased by Amazon Studios for worldwide distribution and streaming rights. I spoke to Odom Jr. while on location for King’s directorial debut right before the pandemic struck, and the only thing he found more fascinating than living in Cooke’s shoes (“a talent cut down way too early in his life, his true promise never had the chance to shine”) was the clean lines of Sam’s suits.