PORTLAND, Maine (207) - You might know him as Aaron Burr in the original cast of Hamilton on Broadway.
After time in other Broadway shows, plus a stint on the short-lived NBC show Smash, Leslie Odom Junior rose to quick fame in his starring role in Hamilton.
Though he had to 'wait for it,' 'history definitely had its eyes on him' when he won the Tony Award for best actor in a musical for his performance.
Leslie Odom Junior had a solo concert at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland Thursday night, where he sang originals, pop covers, Broadway covers, and of course - songs from Hamilton.
Kristina Rex was not 'throwing away her shot' to sit down and learn more from the Broadway star.
Rex: You are a superstar now, there is no doubt about that. What did [Hamilton] do for your career from your eyes?
Leslie Odom Jr.: From my eyes, it did more than you might think. It did more than the eye can see actually because there is the insecurity. There is that plauging question you have as a performer, really has anybody when you are starting out in your 20s. There's that question of, 'Am I really good enough? Can I really do this?' I don't think that you can take that kind of success and that kind of moment for granted. You don't know if you're going to have another moment like that in your career, but I tell you to even see it and know it of yourself once in your life...
Rex: It's a big deal.
LO: It settles your spirit.
Rex: Not only the moment when you were in such a big musical that put music theater on the map for non-theater geeks, but also the moment when you win Best Actor in a Musical. You win the biggest Tony that exists and in the process you even beat out Lin-Manuel Miranda. What was that moment like?
LO: Surprise. If you are not a theater geek especially, you might not know this, but there are a number of awards in New York City that precede the Tonys. There are acting awards and stuff they give out all the time, and I hadn't won any of them. So you're doing the work for other reasons. You have to do it for other reasons. Because if I was doing it for the awards, then I would have failed. So along the way you have to sort of tend to your spirit and check in with yourself and say 'What am I doing this for? Are those things that important to me? How important to me are they?' Because it's all out of your control. So I was very surprised that night. And to say that [winning the Tony] changed my life is an understatement. It's of course a wonderful feeling to receive the award and have the room stand up like that. You know, that's your peers. That's the people you work alongside. But also it makes nights like singing at Merrill possible. When you can go on the marquee and it says 'Tony award winner, Grammy award winner,' that kind of stuff. It makes away for you in the world to do the things that you love beyond New York.
Rex: Obviously Broadway kind of took your career to new heights. But is that what you always wanted? Was theater always a goal or was it music or was it dance? What was your passion growing up?
LO: It came a point where it became theater. When I was a teenager, there was a show called 'Rent' that came out. And that was my 'Hamilton.' I didn't want anything but to be in that show. So I ended up doing the show. I was a teenager when I did it. It's like, you have to dream a bigger dream after something like that happens. So then I thought, 'Wow I wonder what it would've been like to build something like this from the ground up. I wonder what it would have been like to see this catch fire.' I wasn't a part of that. And with 'Hamilton,' it felt like that exact dream coming true. That was the wildest childhood dream that I could have had. So after you achieve like, the wildest childhood dream, you have to give yourself a minute to go, 'What next?' You have to give yourself a minute to rebuild from there. It's a great place to rebuild from; it wipes the slate clean in the way. It's like you're looking at a blank chalkboard again. What do I want to do here?
Rex: What is on your artist bucket list that you have an achieved yet?
LO: Bucket list that I haven't achieved yet… I would like to record an album of original tunes. We have been in the standards and Broadway tunes and stuff like that, which is great, but I would like to try an album of all original stuff. We are working on that now.
Rex: What is one thing that people might not know about you?
LO: You know, that all of this might not have happened. I almost very seriously quit five or six years ago. It wasn't a joke to me. It was very serious, because it's just so up and down. And I wanted off the roller coaster. So I was looking to transition on over to casting directing. I was applying to be a night clerk at a hotel, and I couldn't even get the gig. I couldn't even get hired as a night clerk because they are looking for people with night clerk experience. So it was a hard moment. It was a hard moment but I took charge, I talked to some mentors of mine who refocused me and gave me some direction, and it changed everything. But none of this obviously would've happened if I had quit.
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