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Playing Aaron Burr in "Hamilton," Leslie Odom Jr. has been front and center as the former off-Broadway hit exploded into a national phenomenon with fans, celebrities and even the president calling in every last favor to get a coveted seat.
"It is the most exciting, wonderful, trying, challenging time ever," Odom Jr. told Willie Geist for "Sunday TODAY."
Odom Jr. arrived on Broadway at 17, when he earned a role in "Rent" and moved from Philadelphia to live with his grandmother in Astoria, Queens. Now 34, he's in the midst of a role, and a show, of a lifetime.
"I think for a lot of us, you know, what 'Hamilton' gave us the opportunity to, what it gave me the opportunity to do, was to go, 'Here's what I've learned in 35 years,'" he said. Here's "the lessons that I've learned in my entire life. Of training, studying this and loving this. And dump it all out at the Richard Rogers every night."
And as the cast of "Hamilton" "dumps out" their talent on stage, the crowds — and celebrities — have come. Everyone from Oprah, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Beyoncé, Henry Winkler, Michael Chiklis and Jill and Joe Biden, has seen the show.
"The really beautiful thing about it is that you're meeting your heroes," Odom Jr. said of meeting the star-studded audience members. "In a way that they're disarmed a bit. You know?"
But it's not just the celebrity audience that gets Odom Jr. excited, but rather the whole crowd. Odom Jr. loves the theater-goers so much that before every show, he takes some time to go watch the audience from a hiding spot.
"I'm looking to see, are they happy?" he said. "Are they excited? Are they tired? Are there kids out there?"
And it's all worth it for the cast on stage.
"When we are together, that original cast, when we step on stage to do our thing, there is a conspirational, you know, essence in the air," Odom Jr. said. "And so, yeah, we're a family. And that just makes you better."