In just 25 years, Tupac Shakur lived an enormous life, and one more than worthy of a film adaptation. Twenty-one years after his death, he’s finally getting that honor with the upcoming biopic All Eyez On Me. The film hits theaters on June 16 — what would have been Pac’s 46th birthday–
and over eight years after his former friend and adversary The Notorious B.I.G.’s life was immortalized on the silver screen in Notorious. Tupac’s biopic has been years in the making, and is finally arriving next with tons of both anticipation and skepticism from fans. Yes, the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton was a hit, and yes the actor portraying Pac — Demetrius Shipp Jr. — is a dead ringer for the slain rapper, but Pac’s legacy is a monumental one to uphold and the pressure will be on.
One of the people holding a lion’s share of that weight on their shoulders is Dominic Santana, the actor tasked with portraying the role of Suge Knight, who, no matter how he’s depicted, is bound to become the antagonist at some point. The brooding former CEO of Death Row records will surely play an integral role in the film, a fact that is not lost on Santana as he spoke with me over the phone a little more than a week before Eyez is set to hit theaters.
“There’s always pressure when you’re playing somebody who’s alive and that people can reference just from their own personality,” Santana, a Fayetteville, North Carolina native said of the iconic role he portrays in the film. Santana landed the role after his agent submitted him for it through the standard channels. From there, he read for the previous director before reading again for the final director Benny Boom, and later with Shipp to test out the chemistry.
Still, even with the pressure of playing someone as well known as Suge, Santanta took the challenge head on. “As an actor, that’s always kind of the coup de grâce for us is to get to that point,” he said. “Where we get the opportunity, because that’s where you’re going to be challenged the most, because you can’t cheat it,” he said. “When you’re playing real people, (fans) already have their ideas and assumptions, and they’re like, ‘are you going to live up to them?’ So you already start catching it before the movie even comes out. When we started filming, and the press started going out and people started finding out one by one who was playing who, the opinions already started. So there’s that pressure.”