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Taking His Shot

BY Laura Hine | June 29, 2017 | Feature National

After originating the role of Aaron Burr in Broadway's Hamilton, Leslie Odom Jr. brings his big voice to Ravinia this summer. We had a chance to talk to this multitalented star from his home in Los Angeles about life post-Hamilton.

Tell me how Hamilton changed your life. I can mark on my timeline when my life changed. It was on my birthday: Aug. 6, 2015. That was the night Hamilton opened on Broadway. It felt like a big wink from the universe, especially because off-Broadway is rough. I was planning to take a TV job that was supposed to film in New York. I thought I’d do TV during the day to pay the bills, and then off-Broadway Hamilton at night, but at the last minute, the TV show moved to L.A. and I had to choose. I chose Hamilton. It was a leap of faith, especially since I had no idea how I would pay the rent.

So I guess that worked out for you (understatement!), but it took another leap to leave the show. As a performer, you know that your job is going to end. Shows close, contracts end. You get used to enjoying the hello and making space for the goodbye. It really teaches you to be present and enjoy this time. Hamilton is as good as it gets. Nothing is a better ride than that! But doors opened for me—things that weren’t available or even in the realm of possibility pre-Hamilton. So then I had to decide, do I stay for another year? It’s warm and cushy. Or do I go off and see what else the world has to offer?

You’ve got a new self-titled album out. What’s the music like? I’m very malleable. I can do a little of everything, which is great as an actor, but for an album, you have to do one thing and do it really well. We took 1 ½ years to develop the album. And in the end, it came down to ‘What kind of music would Nat King Cole do today?’ In concert, I, of course, sing some Broadway. I don’t believe in disappointing my audience!

Are you excited to come to Ravinia this summer? This is the first time I’ve ever been in the space, so it’s a real treat. I’m looking forward to it for a lot of reasons. I haven’t spent much time in Chicago, and I’ve got some friends in the Hamilton cast I want to see, so I hope I have a little free time. Aug. 13, 8:30pm, tickets $100, ravinia.org

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