Leslie Odom Jr.’s performance as Aaron Burr in the original cast of Hamilton received so much acclaim that it landed him a Tony Award. Even with that though, his contract negotiations over the film adaptation of the highly-successful play dragged on way longer than he would’ve liked.
On Monday’s episode of Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, the actor claimed he was still in negotiations for his salary for the movie the day before it was set to begin shooting. He said that no one had contacted his agents when it was first announced the show would be filmed. When he was finally contacted, he says the proposal over his salary was disappointing.
“They came to me with an offer, ‘Leslie, we’re shooting tomorrow,’” he said. “And I’m like, here’s the thing: This is it. This is my area of expertise. This is all I have. This is my life’s work on the stage too. And so I just can’t sell it away for magic beans. I can’t give it away.”
Odom says that he simply wanted the pay his white colleagues would make in the same position.
“So I can ask CAA [Creative Artists Agency], what does my white counterpart, what does Aaron Tveit make to do Grease Live! on TV? What does he make to do Grease? This is Hamilton live, right?” he said. “So when I found out what he made, Dax, I didn’t ask for a penny more. I didn’t ask for one penny more, but I said, ‘You must pay me exactly what that white boy got to do Grease Live! That’s the bottom line.’”
He continued: “The day before we shot that movie I called out. I was not kidding. I was not coming to work the next day to do the movie. You know, I was not kidding. It was a principle for me and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes they look at you and go, ‘We’re just not paying it,’ and you have to go, ‘That’s OK.’”
Odom says he’s happy there’s been an awakening over racism in Hollywood over the past few years, however he wants more tangible results coming from protest.
“I love my white liberal friends, love white people, but, you know, don’t be in the streets talking about Black Lives Matter if my Black life doesn’t matter,” he said. “Like, essentially, don’t wait for the f***ing cops to kill me before my Black life matters. If my Black life matters, make sure I can take money home to feed my children.”
Hamilton is currently available on Disney+.