From his first Broadway performance in “Rent” to his Tony award-winning performance in “Hamilton,” not many performers in my opinion have showed more passion in their performances onstage over the years then Leslie Odom, Jr. That’s why the moment I had the opportunity to talk with him as a fellow actor meant the world to me.
Many of you might know Mr. Odom, Jr. from his Nationwide commercials or his TV appearances on shows such as “Smash” and “Law And Order: SVU”on NBC, but for me, his theater roles have always made the most impact.
Growing up on the spectrum, my parents got me enrolled in theater from the age of 4 to help build on my social and communication abilities. I often didn’t understand the perspectives of others, making theater even more of amazing outlet for me to partake in. Until the age of 19, I performed in over 20 plays before becoming a consultant to bring a realistic portrayal of disability to our entertainment industry.
When I was able to attend a benefit event near my hometown where he was performing, I knew I wanted to attend. The day of the event I was nervous, knowing I would be potentially in the same room as one of my role models. Then I found out after his performances that night he was going to take a few questions.
Without hesitation, after he performed several songs from his new album, a Nat King Cole medley and a few songs from “Hamilton,” I was one of the first people to raise their hands to ask a question.
But before I could ask a question, I had to get something off my chest.
I told Mr. Odom, Jr. in that moment about how much I appreciated the passion he put in his performances. I try to encourage my mentees, many of whom are younger children with disabilities, to use theater as an outlet to help them progress. During these times, I showed them videos of him on YouTube.
Getting the opportunity to share with Mr. Odom, Jr. about how his passion not only inspired me but other kids I work with meant the world to me. Many say that music is a language that connects the world together, but for me, that message has always been true for music and theater. I only hope my mentees will continued to be inspired by these actors so they can achieve great things for years to come.