Triple-threat Leslie Odom, Jr. is a Tony Award-winning performer best known for his roles in the TV series Smash and the original cast of Broadway's Hamilton. He's also a charting solo recording artist.
Born in 1981 in Queens, New York, Odom was raised in Philadelphia. A life-long performer, he made his Broadway debut as a replacement in Rent at the age of 17. He went on to study drama at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and relocated to Los Angeles after graduating in 2003. It wasn't long before he began accumulating guest spots on television shows, including Gilmore Girls and the short-lived Kevin Hart series The Big House (2004), and recurring roles on dramas such as CSI: Miami and Vanished.
In 2012, Odom earned a part in the Broadway musical Leap of Faith and appeared on the cast recording. Later that year, he landed the role of Sam Strickland on the NBC drama Smash, a show fittingly about Broadway performers competing for parts. Fellow cast member Megan Hilty had been a year behind him at Carnegie Mellon. Smash ran for two seasons and resulted in the album Bombshell, a recording of the Marilyn Monroe musical from within the show's story. Released by Columbia in 2013, the pseudo Broadway cast recording featured music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman.
In the meantime, Odom married actress Nicolette Robinson and, amid more television work, began workshopping Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton, playing Aaron Burr. Inspired by Ron Chernow's biography of U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton, it was conceived as a musical version of history that would feature an ethnically diverse cast and part hip-hop songbook. In 2014, Odom also self-released his debut solo album, Leslie Odom, Jr., a set of vocal jazz covers of show tunes and popular song.
The singer/actor/dancer originated the role of Hamilton's Aaron Burr on Broadway in 2015 and went on the win a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, even beating out Miranda as Alexander Hamilton. (Miranda won Tonys for the book, original score, and musical, as well as a Pulitzer Prize for Drama among other honors for the blockbuster.) The hit cast album Hamilton: An American Musical topped the Billboard Cast Albums and Rap Albums charts. Odom performed on over half of the tracks.
In June 2016, S-Curve released an updated version of his debut LP that cut three songs and added four more, including Kosma-Mercer's "Autumn Leaves" and Jule Styne's "The Party's Over." The re-release hit number one on Billboard's jazz chart and made the Billboard 200. Saying that he got requests for a Christmas album "a few times a week," he followed it up later that year with Simply Christmas. ~ Marcy Donelson