Carnegie Mellon University
March 19, 2021

And Then Oscar Came Calling ... Four Nods for CMU Alumni

By Pam Wigley

Pam Wigley
  • College of Fine Arts
  • 412-268-1047

Three Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama alumni were nominated for four awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Monday, March 15. The 2021 Oscar nominations heralded Leslie Odom, Jr.'s performance for Actor in a Supporting Role as Sam Cooke in "One Night in Miami" and Original Song for "Speak Now." Legendary costume designer Ann Roth was nominated for her work in the Costume Design category for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." David Crank was nominated for best production design for "News of the World." A win would be Roth's second Oscar; this would be Odom, Jr. and Crank's first.

Roth is a 1953 graduate whose work is credited in more than 200 films and theater productions. She received an honorary degree from Carnegie Mellon in 2000 and has been recognized by the university for alumni achievement. She won a Tony Award in 2013 for "The Nance" and won an Academy Award in 1996 for period costumes in "The English Patient."

"The Designs of Ann Roth," which includes more than 100 renderings and photos of her work, was released earlier this year by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology and is available online.

Leslie Odom, Jr. is a 2003 alumnus. With this nomination, he is on his way to an "EGOT," the acronym used for those who win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. If he wins the Oscar, only the Emmy Award would be outstanding. His Tony and Grammy awards are for his role as Aaron Burr in the Broadway smash, "Hamilton."

His "One Night in Miami" role also garnered Odom Jr. nominations for Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. As Cooke in the fictional drama, Odom, Jr. is part of a well-known foursome who spend a night in Miami after Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) won the heavyweight boxing title in 1964. Cooke, Ali, Malcolm X and NFL running back Jim Brown meet in a hotel room where they recount both amusing and thought-provoking conversations about their lives and, particularly, the growing urgency surrounding the civil rights movement.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly last fall, Odom, Jr. recounted his hesitancy to tackle such an iconic role but said his training helped him find his way.

"As a Black actor, I went to Carnegie Mellon University, I got all this fabulous training on how to handle text, and how to break down a scene and build a character," the actor told EW. "Many of us get to use that training so infrequently."

"One Night in Miami" is available for viewing on Amazon Prime.

Crank, a 1984 MFA alumnus of the School of Drama in theater design, has played a role in a number of blockbusters through the years, and now he's relishing his first Oscar nod. Crank was nominated in the category of production design for his work on the latest Tom Hanks movie, "News of the World." With an Emmy already to his credit for his work on "John Adams," Crank also was recently nominated for a BAFTA award, the British version of the Oscars, for "News of the World."

Crank said he learned at CMU "a sense of dedication to one's work," and said faculty taught him not only the technical knowledge to do the job, but also the ability to analyze problems and think clearly. He credits teachers in the areas of math, music and art — as well as his parents — who inspired him to do his best in school.

"At Carnegie, I look back fondly on having Cletus Anderson who, without fail, managed to get you through a design problem in class, not by taking your pencil and showing you how he would solve it but, instead, by steering you toward finding your own solution," Crank said. "That was a huge gift from him."

A resident of Richmond, Virginia, Crank manages a successful career designing sets for various projects, including blockbusters like "Knives Out," "There Will Be Blood" and "Lincoln."

The Oscars will air on April 25.

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