TV | September 7, 2021 6:00 am

Leslie Odom Jr.’s Mysterious Journey to Become the First Black Lead in “The Sopranos”

The film is set for an October 1 release

Leslie Odom, Jr.
Leslie Odom Jr. attends the 2019 Princess Grace Awards Gala on November 25, 2019 in New York City.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Princess Grace Foundation – USA

We’re now less than a month away from the release of The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to The Sopranos set in the 1960s and 70s — and set against the backdrop of the real-life unrest in Newark in 1967. Actor Leslie Odom Jr. — best known for his work onstage in Hamilton and on screen in One Night in Miami…, the latter of which earned him an Academy Awards nomination — is one of the most prominent names in what looks to be a stunning cast.

Odom Jr. is also playing, as Ryan Lattanzio notes at IndieWire, “the first Black gangster with a major role in ‘Sopranos’ history.” And as the actor pointed out in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the process by which he ended up auditioning for the film was more in keeping with the Marvel Cinematic Universe than the Tony Soprano Cinematic Universe.

According to Odom Jr., he didn’t initially audition for the role, but then things changed and he found himself up for a role for which he didn’t have all of the information.

“They don’t send you a script, don’t send you character names, scenarios are changed,” he explained. “You have to make some choices as an actor. You take what you see, and you start inventing.”

Odom Jr. didn’t have certain details on hand when he was auditioning, however — including one scene set shortly after his character had killed someone, which certainly seems like it might have an impact on how certain lines were delivered.

Interestingly, Odom Jr. didn’t watch the full series until after the film finished its shoot. Like so many people, he ended up watching it in its entirety during the pandemic — though unlike many of them, he also played a significant part in shaping the world of The Sopranos for a new generation of viewers.