Leslie Odom Jr. had to be pursued to play singer Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami because he felt somebody else would do a better job.
Regina King’s directorial debut is a fictional account about what was said between real-life friends Cooke, boxer Cassius Clay, American football player Jim Brown, and civil rights activist Malcolm X when they met in a Miami hotel room after Clay’s surprise title defeat over Sonny Liston in 1964.
Odom admitted in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that he initially couldn’t see himself as the You Send Me singer and felt somebody else was better suited to the job, until his team convinced him otherwise.
“Anybody that's walking planet earth right now, has heard Sam, has heard You Send Me, has heard A Change Is Going to Come, so I was not inclined to pick up those very large shoes and fail,” he confessed. “I didn't feel up for the task, and I just thought there would be somebody better suited than I, but my manager and my agent called me. They've never done that before. They called me, and they said, ‘We really think you should reconsider.’”
The actor eventually took another look at the script and realised how much he related to the conversations Kemp Powers, who wrote the screenplay based on his own play of the same name, had imagined took place between the four celebrities.
“I saw beyond my fear, and I really saw what Kemp was doing in that script. He was having a very private conversation publicly,” he explained. “These are the kinds of conversations we've been having for a very long time, but it was the first time that I had seen it in a script, and certainly, the first time that I was being offered the opportunity to be that raw and to be that honest. So I was going to have to find my way there through my fear.”
One Night in Miami is currently doing the film festival rounds ahead of a limited cinema release in December.