Interview with Leslie Odom, Jr: Hamilton star speaks about new book, “Failing Up”

Andreina Rodriguez, Staff Writer

After releasing two solo jazz albums, performing as Aaron Burr in the Broadway Musical, “Hamilton,” and winning a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, there’s no stopping for Leslie Odom, Jr. as he’s just released his first ever written book, “Failing Up.”

His book provides personal insight not only on the journey to his success, but also carefully looks at the failures he’s encountered that each have an individual significance to where he is now that he believes can help and inspire young artists throughout their lives.

“I hope for it to be a bit of inspiration and a bit of hope to the next generation. I started thinking of a bunch of people in caps and gowns and of all my graduations and how it may feel like the end of something but then it feels like a beginning of something,” Odom, Jr. said.

When asked why he decided to write a memoir/autobiography at this point, he felt that it was ludicrous to write one, considering how young he is. However, audiences were interested in what he had to say about education, and his publicists inspired him to write in the form of a commencement address.

“I watched a bunch of commencement addresses and the most successful speeches follow the same format. You lay out mottos that have been important to you and your career and you point to life lessons that’ll illustrate why these mottos have stayed and why they stayed,” he said.

“Failing Up,” a title that turns a negative aspect into something positive is just what Odom, Jr. intended by naming it. He felt that it seemed fit for expressing the idea of giving yourself permission to fail.

Throughout his work life, he stresses an importance on mental health and balance that he gets from his profession when it comes to juggling different work opportunities.

“When you choose to identify yourself as an artist, there’s a built in therapy aspect. We spend our time looking at empathy. For me, there’s certainly been thoughts with depression professionally. What’s helped me is my spirituality,” he said.

For him, the arts is like a healing practice in its own as he goes through exercises and routines that allows him to invest in a full body awareness that he believes to be very meditative.

Odom, Jr. mentions the mentors who have had a great impact on his life, such as his elementary school teacher and acting coach. Of course, mentors aren’t limited to just one type of person.

“It can be somebody that’s inspiring and can make space for you,” he said. “It’s a friendship. For me there have been different reasons for why I chose who I choose. Somebody you can trust and who’s going to open up their lives for you. They’re all around you. People who would love to invest in you in that way and pass on the info and knowledge that they have.”

Last year, Leslie’s wife delivered their first daughter, to whom his last chapter is dedicated to. When it comes to looking back on all of his experiences with Hamilton, he appreciates the opportunity he had. However, fatherhood is a brand new experience to him. With his daughter in mind when writing the book, he recognizes her to be the influence in putting a focus on his life.