Leslie Odom Jr. interview: ‘The Many Saints of Newark’
“I was inspired. Nobody writes like David,” declares Tony and Grammy winner (plus Oscar and Emmy nominee) Leslie Odom Jr. about his reaction to first reading excerpts of “Sopranos” creator David Chase‘s screenplay for his highly anticipated prequel film.
“That’s the power of his writing,” he says. “He writes with just enough specificity that you don’t feel out to drift. You don’t feel like the writer is asking you to do all their work for them, but there’s also just enough. He leaves just enough question marks on the material or just enough open that allows you to express your own soul, for you to express your own humanity through his work.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Odom Jr. above.
“The Many Saints of Newark” is set against the backdrop of the tumultuous gang violence plaguing Newark in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s told from the perspectives of mobster Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) and his teenage nephew Tony Soprano, with Michael Gandolfini playing the role made famous in “The Sopranos” by his late father, James Gandolfini.
Odom Jr. co-stars as Moltisanti associate Harold McBrayer, with other major roles familiar to longtime devotees of “The Sopranos” including Vera Farmiga (as Livia Soprano, played famously by Nancy Marchand in the original series), Jon Bernthal (as Johnny Boy Soprano, Tony’s father), John Magaro (as Silvio Dante, played by Steven Van Zandt on the show), Corey Stoll (as Junior Soprano, played by Dominic Chianese on the HBO original), Billy Magnussen (as Paulie Walnuts, played by Tony Sirico on the show) as well as original cast member Michael Imperioli, who provides the voiceover in the film, and Ray Liotta joining the cast as twin brothers “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti.
Odom Jr. doesn’t hesitate when asked whether he would be up for further exploring his character in a sequel or series, given that Harold’s fate remains relatively ambiguous at the end of the film. “I’d work with David anytime,” he proclaims. “He’s an artist. He’s opinionated and he is firm in his vision. That doesn’t mean that it always aligns with your vision as a performer, but there’s something that happens when there’s a tension in a collaboration, it can really yield interesting and entertaining results.”
Interestingly, if Odom Jr. reaps an Oscar nomination for this film, he might could be one step closer to coveted EGOT glory. That’s because he’s already halfway there thanks to his iconic performance in the blockbuster musical “Hamilton,” for which he won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical in 2016 after sharing the show’s Grammy win for Best Musical Theater Album earlier that year. He would then only need to score at the Emmys, which is very possible given he’s been nominated the last two years running (for his voice-over work in in animated musical “Central Park” and for his performance in the Disney+ adaptation of “Hamilton.”) If (or when) he eventually ascends the EGOT throne, he’ll join the likes of Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, John Legend and 13 others who have achieved that distinction.