This Is Leslie Odom Jr.’s Time to Shine

The Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor and singer is having a powerhouse year with a new album, a box-office hit movie, and a role on Broadway that will leave you mesmerized.

There are some people who make the most of every minute of the day. You know the type—super productive with a jam-packed schedule filled with personal and professional interactions of importance. They are on the go from the start of the morning to the end of the night.

With the year that actor, singer, and newly enacted producer Leslie Odom Jr. is having, it was baffling that he could carve out time to chat, let alone devote 30 minutes to a Zoom interview, but there we were, with Odom Jr. as he masterfully juggled answering questions on the tail end of hanging out with his toddler son for the afternoon at a children's museum in New York City.

If it isn’t already evident, Odom Jr. is one busy brother. Right now, he’s spearheading the Broadway revival of Purlie Victorious: An Unconventional Journey Through the Cotton Fields. Written by screen icon and Kennedy Center honoree, the late Ossie Davis, the stage play narrates the tale of a Black preacher’s clever maneuvering to regain his rightful inheritance and reclaim ownership of his cherished church.

The production is a worldwind of energy (so much so, Red Bull should be a sponsor) with clever comedic moments, poignant commentary, and nuanced cultural references that will have you screaming, “I know that’s right!” The cast is brilliant, and Odom Jr. is exceptional in the role of Rev. Purlie Victorious Judson, originally played by Davis when the film first opened on Broadway in 1961 and also starred his equally iconic wife, Ruby Dee.

(l-r) Ossie Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Dee at the 100th performance of "Purlie Victorious."

Photo by Thomas E. Poag | Used with Permission

(l-r) Ossie Davis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ruby Dee at the 100th performance of "Purlie Victorious."

Beyond getting approval from the Dee-Davis family, the production at the Music Box Theater is already getting rave reviews, including the coveted New York Times Critic’s Pick, which described the play as “blazing and hilarious."

According to Odom Jr., the magnitude of stepping into such an austere classic is not lost on him. In fact, he has a single source to stave away the incredible pressure and nerves so that he can properly give justice to Davis’ work and it’s found in the words themselves.

Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast of "Purlie Victorius."

Photo by Marc J. Franklin

Leslie Odom Jr. and the cast of "Purlie Victorius."

“There’s no better armor on a New York stage than great writing,” said Odom Jr. “I learned that with Lin-Manuel Miranda while I worked on Hamilton. I have confidence in this material. It’s not me who’s making people leap to their feet every night. As brilliant as my co-star Kara Young is as well, it is the words and ideas of this genius, the great American Mr. Ossie Davis."

Production Photos by Marc J. Franklin

Leslie Odom Jr. and co-star Kara Young in "Purlie Victorius."

Purlie Victorious also sees Odom stepping into the role of producer alongside various partners, including his wife, Nicolette Robinson, and famous friends Alan Alda, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Kerry Washington. Odom sees himself as just one of the many contributors to the stage play, with a team of respected veterans on stage and behind the scenes.

“I’ve been a contributor to all of it,” Odom Jr. explained. “This is the culmination of 100 to 150 people on stage behind the scenes. This is really the collective wisdom of all of us involved."

Key Art for Purlie Victorious: An Unconventional Journey Through the Cotton Fields

Just in time for scream season and Halloween, Odom Jr.'s acting talents also hit the big screen this month in The Exorcist: Believer, which topped the box office in its opening weekend. Odom Jr. portrays Victor Fielding, a single father who must navigate uncharted territory when his daughter, Angela (Lidya Jewett), becomes possessed by a demon alongside her best friend Katherine (Olivia Marcum). Like many films released in the middle of the Screen Actors Guild strike, Odom Jr. couldn’t comment on his role in the film but he hopes a resolution is on the horizon.

“You don't know when a strike is going to happen with your union,” said Odom Jr. “You can't see those things. Best thing that I can do is pray that God blesses the work of my hands. I pray that I just continue to find myself in rooms like this with collaborators for projects like Purlie Victorious. And if I do that, then I'll always be exactly where I'm supposed to be, regardless of strikes, shutdowns, and layoffs.”

This year also sees him reaching a new creative apex musically. He is scheduled to release his fifth full-length album, “When A Crooner Dies,” on November 17 via BMG, but his first single, “Show Me,” has already dropped. The album is said to be his “most personal body of music to date,” unveiling a level of vulnerability that he hopes will allow for a deeper connection to his fans.

“It was a year of growth and personal development for me,” revealed Odom Jr. “I got into therapy for the first time. I had some real personal challenges that demanded that I grow and learn.”

When a Crooner Dies is filled with several soulfully lush musical moments that act as a bluprint of his thoughts. Odom Jr. hopes the album is an inspiration for those who may be seeking answers to some of the same questions and queries that were on his mind.

“It was a calling for me to write about what I was going through in order to hopefully put out a project that could be the kind of project people could turn to to help them take just one more step to make it, to see one more day, to see one more sunrise, and to give it another try,” he said.

Leslie Odom Jr. Album Cover Art

Courtesy of BMG

Leslie Odom Jr.'s "Show Me" single is out nw.

Though Odom Jr. hasn't garnered a viral single on Tik Tok or hit some arbitrary music industry benchmark, he’s no slouch on the mic. He has collaborated with music greats like Tony Bennett and Adam Blackstone. That doesn’t even count his well-received award-winning portrayal of Aaron Burr Jr. in the blockbuster musical Hamilton and his portrayal of Sam Cook in One Night in Miami. It may have been nearly a decade since his last album, but Odom Jr. is very much appreciative of the space he’s been given to carve out his own niche.

“It's a humble space,” described Odom Jr. “I don't have a residency in Vegas yet but it's mine and I'm thankful for it.”

Between Purlie Victorious, The Exorcist:Believer, and When a Crooner Dies, Odom Jr. is also prioritizing family life along with "me time." His schedule is stacked but somehow he’s able to hold everything together. What’s his secret? He tries to be present, taking on one thing at a time.

"What I do in that moment, I just give all of that. I feel like every place that I desire to be, any ambition that I desire to  achieve, any increase that I desire to see, they'll be realized by passing through the present moment."

See The Exorcist: Believer at a theater near you; pre-order, When A Crooner Dies, which drops on November 17; and tickets are on sale for Purlie Victorious: An Unconventional Journey Through the Cotton Fields at, 212-239-6200, or in person at The Music Theatre box office.

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