“Man, you really want to be prepared when that opportunity comes.” – Leslie Odom, Jr.
Shortly before Audra McDonald and Leslie Odom, Jr. hosted the long-delayed 74th Annual Tony Awards last year, the Tony Award-winning pair interviewed each other about their big breaks on Broadway for Interview magazine. While acknowledging that both of them appeared to be “overnight sensations” because of their first major Broadway roles, the duo spoke candidly about the work that they put in before audiences began to notice them.
Odom admits that he was very hungry for attention by the time Hamilton came around, but points out that he ended up doing “damn near nothing” to figure out the role. He explains, “I think I was afforded something you weren’t, in that I got to work my stuff out in the dark for so many years. Nobody was paying attention for so long, so I was in the woodshed. I was still growing, still trying to figure out how to work more, and how to find my way into better rooms. When I got presented with a masterpiece, which is what Lin [Manuel-Miranda] gave me, I felt like I knew what to do with it, which is damn near nothing. You and I both know, you have to do so little. I trusted the material more than anything.”
When it comes to getting your big break, Odom confesses that it’s difficult to advise someone on how they can get there. He says, “It’s such a hard thing to tell people, because you don’t want the advice to be, ‘I got lucky, you should too.’ You don’t want that to be the advice, but man, you really want to be prepared when that opportunity comes.”
McDonald picks up on that thread by adding that what young, hungry actors have on their side — creative energy. She says, “When you start out in this business, it’s like, ‘Career, career, career, career.’ In some ways you feel very fertile, as far as what’s going on with your career. Even if you’re not super successful, you’re fertile with your creativity.”