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BWW Interview: Leslie Odom, Jr. Reflects on the 'Gift' of HAMILTON and Giving it Back to the World


BWW Interview: Leslie Odom, Jr. Reflects on the 'Gift' of HAMILTON and Giving it Back to the World The #Hamilcountdown continues! As the world gets ready to experience the phenomenon that is Hamilton from their homes, BroadwayWorld is checking in with its stars ahead of the release on Disney+.

Not sure how to tune in on July 3rd? Let BroadwayWorld be your guide!

You were willing to wait for it, and now you get him! Today, Richard Ridge chats with Aaron Burr (sir)- Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. Below he discusses how the musical changed in life in huge ways and how he hopes it will have an equally big impact on others.

I cannot wait to see Hamilton again and to see you again in this role...

I think that you're gonna be pleased. It's as good as you can get to preserve that experience. It is everything we loved about the live experience and then Tommy [Kail] has taken great care and interest in adding a few elements. I think it's a really glorious preservation and that ain't my ego [Laughs] That really is about Tommy's hard work. He's been editing it since we shot it. He said he's edited it at least three times. He would edit the whole movie, go away, work on something, get better, come back and recut the movie. Go away, work on something, get better, come back and recut the movie. It really shows!

It was so important to him to honor all of the hard work. Lin worked on the show for six years, Andy [Blankenbuehler]'s work and [Alex] Lacamoire's work and the company... It's so beautiful.

What does it mean to you that Hamilton will be reaching a wider audience?

It means a lot to me personally, because I didn't grow up going to see Broadway shows. My family couldn't afford that. The first Broadway show I ever saw was when I could afford to buy myself a Broadway ticket and made that a priority for myself. My only glimpse into the theatre in a real way was with the occasional cast album of course and then those PBS Great Performances, or in the library you'd come across some Broadway show that happened to be preserved. When I was at Carnegie [Mellon University] I was watching those videos. I was watching Sunday in the Park with George! So to get to be a part of a piece of work that adds water back into that well that I drank from for so long feels really special and closes a loop for me.

With the ever-changing way of people seeing things now, how do you feel about Hamilton streaming vs. arriving in movie theaters?

I was looking forward to gathering with my brothers and sisters to experience this thing with them. I wanted to squeeze Renée [Elise Goldsberry]'s hand and maybe throw a shoe at Jasmine [Cephas Jones] if I liked the way she sang. I wanted to have that experience with them all together! To pop Daveed [Diggs] on the back of his head when he did that thing we all loved.

I won't get that experience, but no one's having that experience for God's sake. But the fact that at this time, while our beloved Broadway is dark for the first time in history, that the preservation of this show gets to stand in the gap, the literal gap... the fact that this show is going to be a part of bringing Broadway into people's living rooms is a unique blessing that none of us could have foreseen. We didn't know that it would be necessary.

In a lot of ways, this is Tommy and Lin and Disney being drastic. Them looking at a crisis, looking at a moment and saying, "How can we meet this moment? Is there anything we can offer? Do we have anything in the vault that we can add to make somebody's burden a little lighter? How can we bring somebody joy and a little hope?" They've answered the call getting this thing onto the Disney+ platform. Having seen it myself this weekend for the first time, I'm glad about it. I'm pretty excited about it. I think it's gonna mean a lot to a lot of people.

BWW Interview: Leslie Odom, Jr. Reflects on the 'Gift' of HAMILTON and Giving it Back to the World

Who did you watch it with?

I watched it with Nicolette [Robinson] and Lucille.

What was it like the three of you being together and watching this?

Nicolette cried of course. Nicolette cried many times, but she was crying within the first couple minutes and then she cried a couple more times. [Laughs] It was a trip. We have a three-year-old, so it was a little long for her, but there were parts where she was... we haven't even played the cast album for her. After a first viewing she was walking around singing "amanama hamilton!" So it was wonderful and that's yet another gift. The fact that this show has been captured in this way means that I get to share it with people who never got to see it. People who weren't alive while we were doing it! That is another gift that the Hamilton experience has given me.

At what point in the process did you realize how important this piece was going to be?

Probably the biggest early endorsement was when First Lady Michelle Obama, who came to see us Off-Broadway, made sure we waited downstairs for her to make her way to say something to us when she came down with her mother and the secret service. She told us, "I think this may be the greatest piece of art I've ever seen in my lifetime and I'm talking about any art. Visual art, theatre art, I'm talking about all of it. This may be the greatest piece of art I've ever seen." She meant so much to us as a company and those words let us know, if we close next week, that happened. We'll have that forever. It was that and to be honest, many other moments like that that let me know we were having an impact beyond our wildest dreams. Beyond our doors and beyond the theatre district.

Leslie, how has Hamilton changed your life and how do you hope it will change the lives of people who see it?

Hamilton changed my life in the way that any perfect gift changes your life. The relationship to a masterpiece that explores so much of the virtues and ideals that I hold dear as a black man- as an American. It made me a better husband, a better friend, a better citizen, a better artist and so I'll be grateful always and proud of my association all the days of my life.

Sign up for Disney+ today for your chance to catch Leslie and even more of the original cast of Broadway's biggest hit from home on July 3!

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