June 24, 2024

Leslie Odom Jr. says he almost quit ‘Hamilton’ film over pay equity


Leslie Odom Jr. is speaking out about how he almost walked away from the Disney + film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s acclaimed Hamilton due to pay equality. 

Odom Jr.’s performance as Aaron Burr in the original cast of the Broadway musical earned him a Tony Award. But the actor told Dax Shepard on the actor’s Armchair Expert podcast that he was still in negotiations for his salary the day before the film was set to begin shooting. He was not prepared to set foot on set unless producers came correct with the bag, Yahoo! News reports. 

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

Read More: Disney+ makes Hamilton accessible to all

2016 Tony Awards - Show
(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)

Odom says he wanted to be paid the same as his white colleagues in the same position.

“So I can ask CAA [Creative Artists Agency], what does my white counterpart, what does Aaron Tveit make to do Grease Live! on TV? What does he make to do Grease? This is Hamilton live, right?” he said. “So when I found out what he made, Dax, I didn’t ask for a penny more. I didn’t ask for one penny more, but I said, ‘You must pay me exactly what that white boy got to do Grease Live! That’s the bottom line.’”

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He continued: “The day before we shot that movie I called out. I was not kidding. I was not coming to work the next day to do the movie. You know, I was not kidding. It was a principle for me and sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes they look at you and go, ‘We’re just not paying it,’ and you have to go, ‘That’s OK.’”

Odom hopes more Black performers and content creators take a stand and demand their worth in Hollywood. 

“I love my white liberal friends, love white people, but, you know, don’t be in the streets talking about Black Lives Matter if my Black life doesn’t matter,” he said. “Like, essentially, don’t wait for the f***ing cops to kill me before my Black life matters. If my Black life matters, make sure I can take money home to feed my children.”

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