Leslie Odom Jr. Almost Walked Away From ‘Hamilton’ Movie as He Demanded Pay Parity

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The actor who plays the Founding Father Aaron Burr in the critically-acclaimed musical says he would have left if he didn’t receive the same fee as his white peer.


Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. was prepared to miss the filmed version of the hit musical after producers held out on his request for pay parity until the eve of production.

The Broadway smash was filmed with the original cast over two nights in 2016, and was recently released on the new Disney+ streaming service to high praise from fans and critics alike.

Odom, Jr. reprised his role as U.S. Founding Father Aaron Burr for the recording, but reveals he almost walked away from the part because the Tony and Grammy Award winner, who is African-American, demanded he receive the same fee as his white peer, Aaron Tveit, when he starred in the 2016 TV event, “Grease: Live“.

“The day before the movie (shoot), we were still in negotiations of whether I was gonna do the movie, because the movie had been announced…, but no one had called my agent to ask if I’d wanted to do (the filmed play),” Odom Jr. explained on the “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard” podcast.

“It was assumed that we wanted to do the movie and that we would do it for a certain number, and all this stuff was assumed.”

“And mind you, we were a week before the (Broadway) contracts end, so it’s like, the wonderful thing about what’s happening in the streets (protests for racial equality), is it has opened the door for more honest conversation…”

He continued, “They came to me with an offer: ‘Leslie, we’re shooting tomorrow…’ And I’m like, ‘Here’s the thing: this is my area of expertise, this is my life’s work, this is all I have. This is my life’s work on the stage…, and so I just can’t sell it away for magic beans; I can’t give it away…’ ”

Odom Jr. asked his representative at talent agency CAA to find out how much his “white counterpart” Tveit made for “Grease: Live” and requested he receive the same compensation.

“This is Hamilton!” he exclaimed. “So when I found out how much he made, I didn’t ask for a penny more, but I said, ‘You must pay me exactly what that white boy got to do Grease: Live.’ ”

The gamble paid off, but Odom Jr. insists he would have walked away had his request been snubbed.

“It doesn’t always work… I lose jobs sometimes,” he shrugged. “The day before we shot that movie, I called out (of work). I was not kidding (about pay request). I was not coming to work the next day to do the movie…”

“It was the principle for me and sometimes it doesn’t work out… and you have to go, ‘That’s OK.’ ”

The “Hamilton” film also stars creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Phillipa Soo, and Jonathan Groff.