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Tony- and Grammy-winning Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. carves his own path forward

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Leslie Odom Jr.
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Actor, singer-songwriter and performer Leslie Odom Jr. knew he’d eventually land that breakout role. Perhaps it would be on television, in a movie or through a song. But he didn’t imagine fame would come from a quirky hip-hop musical about America’s Founding Fathers.

“I really only have a career to speak of because of Hamilton,” Odom tells the Weekly, in advance of his March 8 tour stop at House of Blues. He jokes that, in his previous life, he was doing a lot of TV shows nobody watched. “I certainly didn’t think Hamilton would become a worldwide phenomenon and brand. [Hamilton] was making me a better artist, a better man, a better friend. I had no choice but to stay close to something like that.”

As an original cast member, Odom originated the role of Aaron Burr. The Revolutionary War-era villain (200-year-old spoiler alert) famously kills the title character in a historic duel. The New York Times dotes on Odom’s skill, writing in a 2016 profile: “His performance, as a strategic striver, a jealous rival and a doting father, is magnetic. He owns the one razzle-dazzle showstopper.”

Since leaving Hamilton—which helped earned him a Tony Award (Best Actor in a Musical) and a share of a Grammy Award (Best Musical Theater Album)—in July 2016, Odom has launched full speed into a mutifaceted career. You may recognize him from such film roles as 2019’s Harriet and 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express.

“Post-Hamilton, my whole life is different,” Odom says. “I want to do all the stuff that nobody would let me do before Hamilton. It’s all gravy from here, because my wildest dream came true a few years ago. All of this is icing on a really delicious cake.”

One of Odom’s favorite aspects of his newfound fame is the support he has received in developing and recording his own music. Excited to be on his “first ever tour,” he playfully jokes about “baby’s first tour bus.”

“We’re trying to do something personal and special,” Odom says of the tour supporting his November release, titled Mr. “The record deserves it. I’ve spent the last three years working on this album. I care about the music so much that I want to give it its due.”

Like Odom’s manifold abilities, Mr draws upon a variety of influences and styles. Odom cites Cab Calloway and Nat King Cole as inspirations for a musical ethos that’s simultaneously traditional and forward-looking (“Those guys were making hip-hop. They were making the contemporary dance music of their time.”). Mr features soulful R&B, crooning jazz, a little Broadway flair and Latin rhythms, all channeled through Odom’s strong, velvety voice.

Up after that for the multitalented performer: a return to the page. In 2018, he wrote, Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning. The title feels like a metaphor for Odom’s own success—though you could hardly call him any sort of failure. Now, he’s under contract to write a children’s book with his wife, actor Nicolette Robinson.

Odom also has several movies in the pipeline, including a 2021 Hamilton film, in which he will reprise his famous role as Burr. And, he concedes, he wouldn’t mind a rest at tour’s end. “Time at home would be nice.”

Leslie Odom Jr. March 8, 7 p.m., $25. House of Blues, 702-632-7600.

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