For Laila Odom, starring in the new Salt N Pepa biopic was a dream that was a long time in the making.
The actress and producer plays Pepa in the TV movie, which is out this month, and said she relished singing, dancing, rapping – and mentoring from none other than Pepa herself.
Directed by Mario Van Peebles, “Salt N Pepa” tells the story of the iconic rap duo’s rise from nursing students in Queens, NY to international hip hop stardom.
“They were pioneers,” Odom told us. “They really could rap, they really could dance, just to be part of that, it’s really special to me. It’s a really special project.”
The New Jersey-bred, Los Angeles transplant has been grinding in entertainment since she was a kid. From the time Odom could remember, she said she wanted to be on stage, and spent much of her youth studying at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Dance Theater of Harlem.
“That was the time that I really shined the most,” Odom said. “I really enjoyed sports and theater. My single-parent mom, she did her best to expose me to things.”
After graduating from Rutgers University’s School of the Arts, Odom left the East Coast for L.A., where she studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade and booked several gigs in digital content, including stints with Marlon Wayans’ “What The Funny,” “All Def Digital,” and playing Kevin Hart’s wife on “Stories With Kev.”
Odom said she then auditioned for the role of Pep – and made sure that she spent time studying the rapper’s mannerisms so that she could really bring her out on screen. After rounds of read-throughs, choreography and costume changes, she got the call that changed her life.
“For me to have that type of opportunity, it was nothing but God,” Odom said. “You work so hard in this business and a lot can go unnoticed. I worked super hard and really care about bringing the best version of Pep that I could be.”
Odom said the movie focuses on the pair’s friendship and how they navigated the music business – highlighting previously unknown stories about their lives – like how Pepa’s trendsetting asymmetrical haircut was the result of a dye job gone wrong.
“It was a nice trip down memory lane,” she said.
“Salt N Pepa” will premiere May 25 on Lifetime.