Leslie Odom, Jr. Was Dreaming of Purlie Victorious on Broadway All the Way Back in Quarantine | Playbill

Tony Awards Leslie Odom, Jr. Was Dreaming of Purlie Victorious on Broadway All the Way Back in Quarantine

He is up for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play and Best Revival of a Play (as a producer).

Leslie Odom, Jr. Heather Gershonowitz

Leslie Odom, Jr.'s Tony Award-nominated performance in Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch was a long-time coming—the actor-producer was fighting for the rights to the Ossie Davis play all the way back in quarantine. 

Odom is currently up for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in the work's title role. He also made his Broadway producing debut with the production, which is up for six awards total including Best Revival of a Play.

Purlie Victorious completed its extended run February 4. Under the direction of Kenny Leon, the production was the Ossie Davis play's first-ever Broadway reviva. Odom and a mentor of his had a personal hand in getting the play to Broadway. 

"[I have to thank] one of my mentors, Maureen Booker, out of Philadelphia" Odom says. "It was 2020 and I had been talking about Purlie for years. In 2020, in the middle of that pandemic, you know, we were sitting at home, thinking about what we might build next after that moment the country was going through and everything. The rights for this show had been tied up. I told her I couldn't get the rights, we'd been trying. She lit the fire. She was like, 'Go get those rights. This play needs to be seen now. You want to do it, it's your time.' And so I have to thank her."

READ: Leslie Odom, Jr. and Kara Young Continue the Story for Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Odom made his Broadway debut in Rent in 1998, and returned to the Broadway stage in Dreamgirls and Leap of Faith in the following years. The actor gained widespread recognition for originating the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, from the 2015 Off-Broadway production at the Public Theater to the subsequent Broadway transfer. Odom's performance earned him the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, as well as a Grammy Award as a principal soloist when the musical's cast recording was awarded Best Musical Theater Album.

Odom says that working on Hamilton, a dream of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail's, was like being carried away on an unexpected ride. For him, Purlie Victorious was a more personal undertaking. 

"I feel like the work of this show, as an actor and a producer, the most important and very first steps happen in the imagination," Odom says. "I had to believe that it could be successful first. All those feelings of unworthiness or insecurity, when they come up, you know, those are the things I had to deal with first, that's the quiet work that nobody sees—to believe that I am capable of handling all this. It was a few years of therapy and one foot in front of the other. A day like this is just very gratifying and rewarding."

Purlie Victorious is currently available to stream on PBS.org or the PBS app.

The 77th Annual Tony Awards are set for June 16 at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. The evening will kick off with The Tony Awards: Act One, streaming for free on Pluto TV. Details are to be announced. The 77th Annual Tony Awards will follow beginning at 8 PM ET, broadcasting live on CBS (check local listings) and streaming live (for premium-level subscribers) via Paramount+. All Paramount+ subscribers will have on demand access to the broadcast beginning June 17. Stage and screen star Ariana DeBose will be back for the third consecutive year to host.

Visit Playbill.com/Tonys for more.

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