How Leslie Odom Jr. overrode imposter syndrome as Mike Cooke in ‘One Night in Miami… ‘


Nicole Cooke-Johnson and her grandmother, Barbara Cooke, cried tears associated with joy the first time they saw Regina California king ‘s “ One Night in Ohio …. ” In fact , these were so moved they viewed it twice.

The film, written by Kemp Powers, who also co-directed Pixar’s animated Oscar contender “Soul, ” imagines a conversation among Sam Cooke ( Leslie Odom Jr. ), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali ( Eli Goree ) plus Jim Brown ( Aldis Hodge ). It marked the first time Cooke’s granddaughter and widow had ever seen the spirit legend portrayed onscreen. Plus Odom’s performance — which usually earned him a supporting actor Oscar nomination to look with his original song jerk for the film’s end-credits monitor, “Speak Now” — more crucially won the acceptance of Cooke’s family.

“He knocked it out of the park, ” Cooke-Johnson says during a conference contact with Odom and The Instances. “Everyone was excited to see how Sam would be portrayed on film. I mean, that’s something we’ve been anxious to find out someone do for years. It had been so important to see my grandpa portrayed not just for the singer-songwriter that he was but for his tenacity as a businessman, for that passion that he had as well as for the fun, affable guy he was. ”

“Nicole, thank you so much for your vote of confidence, ” Odom says. “I thought that I would fall short for some people, maybe even myself, mainly because I knew that there will be places in this movie exactly where I didn’t measure up, where I wasn’t Sam Cooke enough for some people. And so the things i had to focus on was natural intention: I wanted Nicole and her family to see that my only desire was to get it right, in order to honor Mr. Cooke and his legacy. I hoped that will intention would cover the particular gap in whatever my shortcomings were. So the proven fact that you’ve been so encouraging means more to me than I can say. ”


Although he is touched by Academy recognition, Odom states he has mixed feelings regarding his Oscar nominations.

Nicole Cooke-Johnson, granddaughter of singer Sam Cooke

Nicole Cooke-Johnson, granddaughter associated with singer Sam Cooke, can be photographed via the FaceTime app on an iPad, from the girl home in Atlanta, Georgia.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

“The Academy Awards is really about a tradition associated with honor and excellence, and so to be mentioned in the same breath as the other four nominees as well as all of the nominees that have ever been makes you a part of a tradition of storytelling and the arts, ” he says. “Film is very new to myself. It’s only been the last five or six yrs. So to be welcomed to the fraternity of storytellers is extremely meaningful. ”

On the other hand, King’s snub within the directing category “hurts, ” he says. “It hurts myself because that’s my friend and am revere her as an performer and a collaborator. But I should say it hurts myself that the other three siblings in the film aren’t nominated. ”


Odom points out that “even in an impossible year like last year, there was some incredible work in the film space. ” He brings up “ Nomadland , ” “ Minari , ” “ The particular 40 Year Old Version , ” “ Mother Rainey’s Black Bottom ” and “ Da 5 Bloods ” as examples. “You could wipe away the particular five nominees in my type and pull five various other names just as worthy and valid out of the work through last year. I don’t want to knock anybody that’s on that list. I’ve seen individuals films and they’re wonderful. So I hold both of these truths in my hand: I am so hurt that Regina was not nominated. And every one of those directors that’s on that list is valuable and did tremendous work. ”

One comfort: “Any nominations for the film tacitly acknowledge Regina, ” Odom says. “I mean, you can’t really parcel out any parts of this particular film that doesn’t have Regina’s fingerprints all over it. ”

Even though Cooke-Johnson has long been acquainted with California king, she says she was caught off-guard when the celebrity signed on as director.

“This project had been on the table for a long period. It went on a small play circuit and we had simply finished seeing it within Miami when they were in talks about getting Regina as the director. I didn’t understand Regina was even in collection. We had no information that will she was even interested in it.


“I known as her and said, ‘Regina, my grandmother is so thrilled. ’ She was capable to see a woman of color direct it. She thought that would be one of the best ways to tell a story of men and their own relationships. And [Regina] said, ‘How are you aware of about this? ’ And I mentioned, ‘Regina, did you forget about Sam is my grandfather? ’ She said, ‘Oh my God. ’ And thus this whole project through day one has been organic. ”

While the household was invited to be a portion of the process, Cooke-Johnson says, “Our faith in Regina and the story that Kemp had been playing was superlative. I knew that if we just stood back, we would have the best result.

“A lot of time whenever you’re this close to this, you battle with being biased about everything, ” the girl adds. “And I know there are a great number of struggles having families involved with projects like this. So for us, when Regina came upon, we literally were hands off. I was hesitant about even coming on fixed often because you almost want to close your eyes and just see it when it’s almost all done. ”

Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke sings into a microphone

Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke in Regina King’s “One Night in Miami…. ”

(Patti Perret / Amazon Studios)


Odom initially rejected the role , considering Cooke’s shoes were simply too large to fill. But the chance to breathe life in to Powers’ screenplay — which the writer adapted from his own stage play and which explores the relationship between the four icons through conversation rather than following a traditional biopic framework — was too big a chance to pass up.

“I recognized that Kemp was doing something new, ” Odom says. “He had been going a little deeper. The particular conversation was compelling and honest in a way I’d certainly not quite seen. It was daring and I wanted to be a part of something daring. ”

Because Cooke’s career spanned just seven years prior to he was killed in 1964, “There is a limited catalog of video plus documentaries [about him], ” says Cooke-Johnson. “I imply, there’s probably a dozen video clips, maybe less. But Leslie brought home the small movements, actually down to how he held himself in his performance, their inflections and the way this individual held his mouth when he sang. To see Leslie pick that up had been awesome. ”

Another major challenge was your film’s quick turnaround, which usually left Odom just five weeks to prepare for the role. “It’s not like I got to just clear my schedule meant for five weeks to go away and prepare, ” says Odom, who with his spouse, actress Nicolette Robinson (“The Affair”), welcomed a second kid, a son, earlier this particular month. “I knew I used to be going to leave my family for nearly two months to go shoot so I couldn’t spend all 5 weeks now running far from them — I was simply reading and watching videos and documentaries and completing the gaps in my understanding of Sam Cooke. ”


Odom got to reunite together with his family sooner than expected whenever Robinson stepped in to enjoy Barbara Cooke in a brief scene early in the film. “We thought it would be this kind of fitting way to honor their particular love story, ” he says. “[Sam and Barbara] have been together since grade school. Nicolette and I haven’t already been together that long but with twelve years [together], all of us got to lean into our familiarity and our rely on of one another and use that in service of the informing of the story of the Cookes. ”

“We were privy to who would perform [my grandmother] and exactly what she looked like and then recently when they were expecting I used to be like, ‘Wait a minute, the lady looks familiar! ’” states Cooke-Johnson.

“Ha! ” Odom says. “Yeah, we didn’t lead with this. My wife still has the girl [maiden name] mainly because she is her own woman and her own artist. And Nicolette didn’t get this job mainly because we’re married; she started using it on her own merits [after] we dropped the original actress who was scheduled to play Mrs. Cooke throughout COVID when she could not travel out to L. The. I said to Regina, ‘Well, I just happen to live with a brilliant actress, let us make you the tape and see if it functions. ’”

For all your things that clicked into place during the production of “One Night in Miami… ” Odom faced one main hurdle: He was affected by imposter syndrome throughout filming.

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“There’s a saying from when I was obviously a kid that goes something similar to, ‘Your arms are too short to box with Lord, ’” he says. “And therefore essentially I was wondering, are I enough? ”

King — and the spirit of Cooke — helped him through the struggle.

“I believed in Regina and Regina believed within me, so I had to find a way to believe in myself along the way of shooting this film, ” Odom says. “And a lot of that I got through Sam’s confidence. He just had a real understanding of his power, his position and his potential so he was able to walk tall. And actively playing him, I walked such as he did. After [shooting in] Louisiana, We grew a couple of inches. I possess more of an understanding of my very own abilities after having walked around a little bit in Sam’s shoes. ”