Oral History: Tupac Shakur’s Acting Career–Uncut! [Pg.2]
Laresca: When they shot the scene when he shot me, they gave him the fucking 38 with the blanks. Pow! Pow! Pow! He was shooting in the air! They were like, “Yo, you can’t do that bro.” It was a low budget movie, so there were no squibs. They threw a bullet proof vest on me. They told Tupac, “This is what you’re gonna do, You’re gonna take the gun, stick it in his chest and pull the trigger. One shot and as he falls out of frame, you’re gonna empty the gun in him.” We did the scene and the director was like, “This looks staged. I’m not getting the reaction.” He shoots me in the chest and as I’m falling, he keeps shooting and I actually got shot in the neck with a full charged blank. That’s the shot they used in the movie. You can see the powder burns in my neck.
Kain: When we shot my death scene, it was a long day. We were young and getting high.
Ernest was like, “You’re going to fight over the gun, ‘Pac is going to take the gun from you and hit you in the chest. We’re going to get the gun shot wound and I want you to fall face first.” Tupac wasn’t really with it when we first kicked the scene off. There was no real fire [from Tupac]. I grabbed him and body-slammed him into the garbage cans and they yell cut. Pac jumps up and is like, “I can’t wait to bust you know. Gimme the gun.” It was on after that. It was fire.
Hopkins: Me and ‘Pac had an incident. One of his boys had got killed the day before. No one on the set knew but him. That day, he walked off the set. He walked off the set many times. We stayed in the same condo complex on 51st St. and 7th avenue. When I got home that night, I decided to play a joke, so I knocked on his door and told him, “Hey man, you messed up big this time. They are rewriting the movie and you are getting kicked off the movie.” The next day he came to the set and when he found out it wasn’t true, he ran down on me. We almost got into a real fight but it was like when you’re boys and you’re not trying to fight but you’re trying to let them know you mad. It wasn’t no real strong blows but there was a little tussle. It was Pac’s first film and he wasn’t understanding the hurry up and wait process. Meaning, he didn’t understand getting to the set at 7:30 and not filming until 12. He felt like they didn’t respect his time.
Treach: He was never late, always knew his lines and was always professional. We would get in at 2, 3 in the morning. He knew when to cut off the drinking. He could smoke all night. We were young so we could get 4, 5 hours of sleep and do our thing.
At times during the shoot, Tupac exhibited the violent tendencies of his character. Was it method acting or had he tapped into an exaggerated version of himself?
Dickerson: Tupac always had moments of being volatile.
Preston Holmes (Coproducer, Juice; coexecutive producer, Gridlock’d): There was one incident when we were shooting in Harlem on 158th St and Amsterdam. It was an exterior scene and Tupac wasn’t in the scene. He had finished his scenes for the day and was hanging out. A lot of people from the neighborhood were hanging out watching us film and Tupac started having a conversation with a young lady. Eventually, her boyfriend appeared and words were exchanged between ‘Pac and the boyfriend. It looked like the situation was going to be ugly and security contacted me. I was able to calm him down, pull him away and walk him back to his trailer. He was full of bravado at that point and was talking about how he wasn’t afraid of anybody and was from Oakland the murder capital of the world and how they didn’t know who they were messing with. I was like, “Look man, that’s all well and good but we can’t have anything happen to you. That’ll be the end of the movie. You might not realize this but judging from the dailies, if you want a career in this, you got it. When this movie comes out, I think it’s going to change your life.”
Laresca: Somebody broke into his trailer one day and stole his jewelry. He went fucking crazy. He was like, “No one’s leaving until I get my fucking jewelry.” He wasn’t fucking around. He was the real deal when it came to that shit.
Dickerson: The producers offered to replace the jewelry and he said, “No, no, I know who did it. I will deal with it.” Then he started having this huge person hang out with him, not really a bodyguard but hanging out with him. One day, we were setting up the scene with Raheem’s funeral. I see the producers talking in a huddle. I go, “What’s going on?” They said, “Just go back and keep setting up. You don’t need to know.” Apparently, they found the guy who stole his jewelry and ‘Pac and the big guy were stomping this guy in the middle of the street on the curb, people were yelling out the window, “Stop it, leave that boy alone.”
Kain: I brought a girl that I liked up to the set that day. It was this dude Stretch [Tupac’s friend, the rapper Randy “Stretch” Walker], who is no longer alive, ‘Pac and Treach and they were stomping this kid out. It was one of the neighborhood kids that ‘Pac had taken under his wing, let him inside the trailer and the kid stole some jewelry out the trailer. They caught him on the block and fucked him up. Meanwhile, the girl that I brought was thinking that this was the movie and it’s a scene that they were shooting. And it’s not. This kid was getting stomped the fuck out.
Holmes: Some of his costars told me that when he saw the response to Bishop, he sort of took on that persona as his own.
Marlon Wayans (Actor, Above the Rim): I met Tupac when he was filming Juice; I knew Omar Epps from high school. When we hung out it was a different ‘Pac. He was a performing arts high school kid, so we understood each other. We were the creative kids who got jumped by the Decepticons for our Walkmans. We played pranks on each other, laughed with girls. He was real friendly. That’s who he was. He might have been gangster because he was passionate. Once Tupac went to jail and came out of jail, I think that experience changed him. It put out that little fun fire in him. When he came out, it was “Fuck the world.” After jail, it seemed like he gave up on the smile of the world. It fueled that Bishop in him. I think Bishop was always a part of ‘Pac. I wouldn’t say ‘Pac became Bishop.
Treach: People sometimes are like, “I know ‘Pac before Juice and he was cool and then he turned into Bishop.” Nah. We were in the projects. We would go get weed, go to parties. There was so much Tupac put into the Bishop role. It wasn’t like he was stepping outside of his boundaries. He put all of his pain from growing up—moving state-to-state and seeing different environments. A lot of his family was getting killed or were on the run. He put all of his hurt up into that so that was undeniable.
Hopkins: ‘Pac put more of a twist on the character than the character put on him. One time, me, him, Omar and the producer David Heyman—he produced all the Harry Potter movies—tried to get a cab. We couldn’t get a cab. This is back when cab drivers wouldn’t stop for young Black guys. Me, ‘Pac and Omar couldn’t get a cab so David had to step up and hailed a cab down. That there started a debate between the cab driver and Tupac. During the whole cab ride, Tupac and the cab driver were having a debate on why he should stop and not judging. That, right there, is where Tupac locked the character of Bishop in.
Dickerson: Did the lines blur? I think a little bit. I think a lot of Bishop is probably a lot of Tupac.
Mopreme Shakur (Stepbrother): The people didn’t know Pac at the time. They knew Bishop before they knew ‘Pac. ‘Pac was just on tour with Digital, he was hardly on any of those songs. When people saw him, they would be like, “Bishop, Bishop.” He hated that. He hated when motherfuckers called him Bishop all the time.
Laresca: He always called me Radames. Every time he saw me called me Radames.
Allen Hughes (Director, Menace II Society): I took Tupac to the Paramount lot to see Juice. It was the first time he’d seen Juice. It was also the beginning of the end. He came out of that theater and was never the same again. He saw the power of cinema that night. He saw his future embodied in that character and he became obsessed with that—the machismo part, the gangster. He did a phenomenal job with that role and that’s when he went off the rails. He became utterly obsessed with thug life and with anything that related to becoming that Bishop character whether it was getting more tattoos, getting in altercations. He wanted to be that character, that hothead. He saw in that moment—“This is how I’m going to be a star.”
He knew that there needed to be something else to make him the James Dean or Marlon Brando of hip hop—the reckless abandon, the Rebel Without a Cause of hip hop and he hadn’t figured that out until he saw Juice that night. Tupac always had a dark side but that was balanced with a light, jovial funny side. He was far from a thug. The biggest misnomer of Tupac was that he was a gang banger, fighter, thug. He wasn’t. One of the best roles he played was that role. Tupac’s greatest role was playing Tupac. That whole thing was a character. In real life, Tupac was a very demure person. He was not that thug dude, at all. He was very thoughtful, sensitive, well-read, well-studied, book smart, fell in love easily with everyone and everything.