Leslie Odom, Jr. Initially Didn’t Want To Play Sam Cooke In ‘One Night In Miami’: There Must Be Someone That Was Better Suited Than Me
Leslie Odom, Jr. delivered a critically-acclaimed performance as legendary singer Sam Cooke in Regina King’s One Night In Miami film. But the Hamilton star has revealed that he wasn’t always open to playing the role.
He told Buzzfeed:
“I kept getting phone calls from friends of mine who were going in for Sam Cooke, and they were like, “Have you been in for Sam yet?” And I was like, “Nah, I’m good. I don’t need to do that.” My agent sent me the audition material and I said, “Respectful pass. Thank you so much.” I only say that because I thought the shoes would be ill-fitting, you know? I just I thought that there must be someone somewhere that was better suited than me.”
He continued and said he also didn’t want playing the role to contribute to labels that have been put on him in the past.
“Also, when you’re a young actor or a young anything, really, people are real quick to slap a label on your forehead. They want to do it as soon as possible, saying things like, “You’re kind of like a young Don Cheadle–ish, Denzel-ish, Sam Jackson,” because they don’t want to think too much about you. They’re busy. But none of those labels are really who you are. They don’t really set you up for any kind of success. You’re not gonna be those guys. So, because of Hamilton, I finally thought I separated myself a little bit from that. And for the first time people were like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re Leslie Uggams Juniors — yeah, Leslie Odom Jr. Right, you were in Hamlet? No, Hamilton…right, right, right.'”
But he had a change of heart when his agent told him he’d be “making a mistake” if he didn’t audition.
“I had enough things going on that I was separating myself a little bit from all that had come before and it just didn’t seem all that wise for me to go try to impersonate somebody else. I was finally in a place to show the world who I am. But my agent and my manager called me and they said, “We think you’re making a mistake.” They never called me like that about something before. They said, “We think you need to take a look at One Night in Miami again. And I was like, well, if you guys are calling me like this, let me heed your advice. And so I did.”
He admitted that after reading the script, he saw the project differently the second time around as he saluted Kemp Powers, who wrote the screenplay.
“I looked at the script again and I saw what these guys saw: I saw that Kemp was doing something daring. He was pushing the boundaries in a film and usually in film the way we push boundaries is through violence and sex, or the craft of filmmaking too. But this was a script that felt a little spicy and all they were doing was talking. So what’s spicy about that is that Kemp wanted to show a private conversation publicly. He wanted to show the interior of these men — a deeper interior of the tenets of Black life. He wanted to put that on display and I wanted to be a part of something daring, so I’m glad that I went in.”
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