Where did Leslie Odom Jr. end and Sam Cooke begin? For his transformation into the soul singer for his Oscar-nominated role in One Night in Miami…, Odom had to cram his physical and mental prep into a short amount of time. "I would have loved a year to get my body right," says the 39-year-old star, who lost weight and wore prosthetics to portray Cooke in the Regina King-directed film. "They had to pull my costumes in because I was successfully shedding pounds while we were shooting."

And then there were the singer's actual mannerisms. Says Odom: "When you're playing someone else, you're trying to get as many little moments as possible: 'That's the way he might hold a microphone, or that's how he stood, he kind of cocks his hip like that'…you want to capture that."

Leslie Odom Jr. in 'One Night in Miami'
| Credit: Patti Perret/Amazon Studios

Finally, Odom worked hard to nail the singer's distinctive voice, studying music from Cooke's early gospel days to his pop hits like "You Send Me" and "What a Wonderful World," and working with a dialect coach. "[Cooke's] speaking voice was very different than mine, says the Hamilton star, who is also nominated in the Best Original Song category for "Speak Now," which plays during the film's end credits. "He had one of the greatest voices of all time…and I also get a sense that he knew that. He was not late to the party of his own talent."

Indeed Cooke, who died at 33 in 1964, was quite strategic in his career choices: "He didn't want to be limited by genre, or race or small-mindedness, he wanted to go to all the places his talent could take him," says Odom, who jokes that his own personal career strategy is closer to "how do I keep the unemployment line at bay for as long as possible?"

Watch the conversation above. One Night in Miami… is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

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