Why Leslie Odom Jr. Is the Happiest He’s Ever Been in ‘Purlie Victorious’

Leslie Odom Jr. isn’t just the star of the new, critically acclaimed Broadway revival of “Purlie Victorious.” He’s also one of its producers. The combination is really working for him.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” the Tony-winning, Oscar-nominated actor (“Hamilton,” “One Night in Miami”) said on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety’s theater podcast.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

For Odom, the satisfaction comes in being (ahem) in the room where it happens — that is, being part of the team of producers that makes decisions about every aspect of the production, including nuts-and-bolts concerns like marketing and advertising.

“I’m not the only voice in the room. I don’t even have to be the loudest voice in the room,” Odom explained. “But they’ve allowed me a voice. I get to be heard in the room.”

“Purlie Victorious” also marks the culmination of a long-held desire to bring the 1961 Ossie Davis play back to prominence. He recalled that he surprised himself with the idea when, soon after his “Hamilton” Tony win, an interviewer asked him what he’d like to do next on Broadway. Out of the blue, Odom Jr. said, “Purlie Victorious.”

“I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “But I’ve learned not to question where inspiration comes from.”

It was a play he’d known since high school and always admired for the way it confronts the harsh truths of racism with a generous sense of comedy. In the actor’s view, the laughs help the show’s more serious moments really land. “Davis gets a chance to say what he intended to say, but by then, the audience is so disarmed and they’ve been having such a wonderful time that I think that they can really hear it,” he explains.

“Purlie” brings the actor back to Broadway for the first time since he left “Hamilton” in 2016. On the new “Stagecraft,” he revealed how he’s taking care of himself this time around.

“I’m a little older than the last time I was on Broadway, so I have to take my warmups very seriously!” he said.

To hear the entire conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and the Broadway Podcast Network. New episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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