The Broadway smash “Hamilton” has been the talk of the town since it opened in August. But the rap-based musical about one of the nation’s founding fathers would not exist in its current incarnation but for an act of showbiz compassion last year by NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt.
“Hamilton” is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the book and the music, and plays the title character. His key nemesis, Aaron Burr, is limned by legit vet Leslie Odom Jr.
When casting for “Hamilton” was coming together in the spring of 2014, Odom had booked a small role in what was then an NBC drama pilot, “State of Affairs.” By the time Miranda firmed up his plans for “Hamilton,” “State of Affairs” had been ordered to series. Odom couldn’t do both, so he asked for mercy from NBC.
The NBC boss knew what a career-changing opportunity “Hamilton” would be for Odom, because the exec had seen a workshop reading of the project. He’d been impressed enough to make a small investment in the production. Moreover, Greenblatt has long admired Odom, with whom he’d worked in the past, including on NBC’s tuner-drama “Smash.”
Greenblatt ultimately released Odom from “State of Affairs.” The role was easily recast, and the show lasted only one season. But Odom’s musical duel with Miranda is generating big B.O. and Tony buzz.
“I will never forget it,” Odom says of Greenblatt’s decision. “I will always be grateful.”