Leslie Odom Jr. is up for a pair of Oscars this year: Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song (“Speak Now”) for his work in the Amazon drama “One Night in Miami,” which makes him only the fourth person to receive nominations for acting and songwriting in the same year. “It means a lot,” Odom explains, and it also “speaks to some positive changes in the industry over the years.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Odom above.
Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”) and Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) also earned dual nominations for acting and songwriting in recent years. For Odom, that reflects an industry more open to artists crossing boundaries. An actor doesn’t just have to be an actor, and a musician doesn’t just have to be a musician, so “we’re allowed to bring all that we are to the table more and more and we’re also starting to tell an even wider spectrum of stories.” If those barriers hadn’t been there in the past, he believes other artists like Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines and more would have gotten similar recognition.
But “One Night in Miami” was also “daunting” because Odom was playing a music legend, Sam Cooke, and doing his own singing in the role. “I thought that whoever played the role would be lip syncing, of course, because Sam was one of the most famous voices of all time,” the actor remembers. “But I’m glad that [director Regina King] saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and I owe her a lot.”
Then composing “Speak Now” with co-writer Sam Ashworth for the conclusion of the film “was an opportunity to bring more of myself to this project that already meant so much.” They watched an early cut of the film and “listened to that silence” at the very end. “What is worthy to fill this silence? What do we need right now after having taken that journey? We kind of plucked the words and the melody out of the air out of that silence.”
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