The way that Hamilton has captured the minds and imaginations of its audience is truly unprecedented.
In only a few short years, Hamilton has received 11 Tony Awards, sold more than 1 million copies of its soundtrack, and made nearly $650 million in the box office alone.
But in addition to giving us an excellent musical, Hamilton introduced as to a whole new group of incredibly talented actors like Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, and Leslie Odom Jr. It’s no wonder that Disney+ wanted to nab the original cast for a filmed version of the show!
But when Leslie Odom Jr. was approached by the streaming platform, he refused to take their original offer. He knew his worth.
He recently recounted the story to the Armchair Expert podcast and said,
“They came to me with an offer and you know, ‘Leslie, we’re shooting tomorrow.’ 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.”
The Tony award-winner approached his agents and asked,
“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?'”
“So when I found out what he made, 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.”
Odom Jr. started playing the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton‘s 2015 off-broadway production and stayed on to perform on Broadway until leaving the show in late 2016. He’s certainly been an integral part of its success.
It’s refreshing to see Odom Jr. advocate for himself, especially in a profession where the inequalities against people of color are especially egregious.
This is actually not the first time that the actor has had to be his own advocate. He was a key proponent of a historic deal that saw Hamilton’s performers gain 1% of net profits from the show, plus a smaller share from most future productions.
As a seasoned performer who likely has had to take his share of lumps in his career, Odom Jr. understands the importance of standing up for what you deserve. Black people, as well as other people of color, are often discouraged from standing their ground, for fear of being labeled “difficult.” However, advocating for oneself, as well as for others, is the only way long-entrenched prejudices will change. Individuals like Leslie Odom Jr. who challenge the status quo, are exactly who we need to uplift and support as they continue to drive Hollywood towards change.
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Ashley is a Blerd and pop culture glutton with a penchant for video games. She is a freelance writer, whose articles have appeared in Black Girl Nerds and Screen Rant. Life is happiest for her when she’s able to indulge in her childhood hobby, by putting pen to page.