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Oral History: Tupac's Acting Career Told Through His Co-Stars and Producers (PT. 2)

Some say Tupac Shakur was possessed by the role of Juice’s Bishop. But Shakur’s True Hollywood Story transcends his art imitating life. Interviewing his on-set collaborators, VIBE presents the UNCUT Hollywood tragedy of a man some influentials boldly called Denzel Washington’s successor. In part two, Pac's co-stars, producers, and friends discuss their time working with him on the movies Poetic Justice, Above The Rim, Gridlock'd and Gang Related. Thomas Golianopoulos


Nicolaides: I think John idolized Tupac. Tupac gave John even more cred. Janet was royalty. It’s another thing to work with royalty. Janet was very quiet, hard working and just about the business. She was involved with Rene Elizondo at the time. He was around a lot, and maybe there was a bit of Svengali going on. Before we shot that last scene in the beauty shop when they were going to kiss, Rene and Janet had me come into their trailer. They said, “We know the kiss is coming up in two days, we want him to get an AIDS test.” I went to Tupac, and he said, “Fuck, no. I’m clean.” I go back and was like, “He’s not going to do it, and I’m not going to try and make [him].”
Joe Torry (Actor, Poetic Justice): Janet had caught a cold from Q-Tip during the first couple of weeks of filming. Remember, they kissed in the car before he got his head blown off [in the first scene]. We didn’t know a lot about [AIDS] and Tupac had been known to be banging the bitches. He was smoking weed, coming to the set drunk, fucking bitches in the trailer. There was a little word that he had a dirty dick and that one of these bitches gave him something.
Shakur: ‘Pac was like, “Wait a minute. You treating me different. I’m a real nigga.” Janet had kissed Q-Tip in an earlier scene and caught a cold. Everyone was freaking out and wanted ‘Pac to take an AIDS test. Pac lost it. He went off on John in the trailer. ‘Pac was like, “Fuck that. Unless I’m having sex with her, I’m not taking an AIDS test.”
Singleton: That was a publicity stunt we came up with. Me, Janet, Tupac, Regina King and Joe Torry were sitting on the set. Everyone is trying to impress Janet anyway. I was like, “Man I don’t know about this love scene. You’ve been hitting all this shit. I don’t know if I want you touching my actress.” He’s like, “Fuck you man. We’re not fucking, so don’t matter whatever.” “You need an AIDS test.” “If we’re really fucking, I’ll do it.” You do shit like that and you know everyone is going to be talking about our movie.
Torry: For one or two days, this extra was messing with Tupac calling him “Four Pac.” That guy came back the next day and Tupac wanted to whup his ass. [This was] the scene with the older women. Tupac was like, “I’m going to whup your motherfucking ass.” He couldn’t really contain herself. I was like, “C’mon man. You’re smoother than that.”
I didn’t see [Dr. Angelou’s] reaction.
Dr. Maya Angelou (Actress, Poetic Justice): I heard [Tupac] cursing and using such vulgarity. Then the following day, he was in a big row with another young man about his age. I went up to [Tupac] and told him, “I want to speak to you, please.” He calmed down enough for me to ask him, “Do you know how important you are? When was the last time anybody told you or reminded you that our people stood on auction blocks so that you could live today? Somebody in your background decided they would stay alive despite this. They laid in the filthy hatches of slave ships to stay alive so that they would have some descendants. And here you are. You’re more valuable than you can imagine.” Later, when he wept and I wiped his face with my hands because I didn’t have a napkin or handkerchief. Then, I went to my trailer and Janet Jackson came and said, “Dr. Angelou, I can’t believe you actually spoke to Tupac Shakur.” I said, “Who is that?” I [later] told his mother, “I didn’t know six pack or eight pack or ten pack. I didn’t know.”
John Singleton: He was a sensitive guy. He didn’t know if he wanted to be a thug or revolutionary. I still dream about the movies me and Tupac would have made. I wrote Higher Learning for him. He was playing the Omar Epps role. The original cast to Higher Learning was supposed to be Tupac, Leonardo Dicaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow and Juliette Lewis. ‘Pac ended up getting in trouble and then all that stuff happened in New York. It was logistically impossible
Tupac was a handful on the set of Above the Rim. Around that time, he shot two off-duty cops in Atlanta and was also charged with sexual assault in New York. On November 30, 1994, the day before the verdict was supposed to be announced in the sexual assault case, he was shot five times at Quad Studios. He had been filming Bullet with Mickey Rourke throughout the fall of that year.
Wayans: He was a workaholic when we were shooting Above the Rim. He worked when people slept. When he finished on Above the Rim, he would go straight to the studio. He would be there all night making music, probably get an hour and a half sleep and come back to the dressing room. I shared a trailer with him and I could smell the weed and hear the music. I would be high as hell off the contact high. Our trailer was one big blunt. It was a hot box.
Leon (Actor, Above the Rim): When we were in the park, Tupac was running around with his pants falling down and people were passing blunts to the extras in the audience. During production we had to switch scenes around and things were delayed a bit because he was arrested a couple of times. It was madness.
Wood Harris (Actor, Above the Rim): There was a take that we did once. It was a real quick shot. It was nothing. It was me and Tupac driving into the scene and getting out the scene. We had the girls with us. We had to drive in, get out the car and go into the park and there was a cut after that. We’re talking about a pretty easy shot. Tupac drives, he parks and is trying to pull the knob up on the door and it’s not coming up. The door had a faulty knob where he couldn’t just smoothly pull the knob and open the door. It was like, “What happened?” “I couldn’t get this to come up. Somebody should probably change this because this thing is not working right. I can’t open the door from the inside.” The director ignored it. We do the scene and the same thing happened again. By the time he got his door opened, he got out the car, looked at the director and said, “I told you this was going to happen.” And he went straight to his trailer. I’ve never seen a person do that on a set. It didn’t come off like a diva. You see a lot of diva behavior on set like wanting the M&M’s separated by color. That wasn’t diva. He was just like, “Alright, I’m gone. Holla at me when you take care of that.”
Wayans: One time, Tupac was like, “Yo, this Range Rover. Why it got doors on it? Take the doors off. I want the doors off the Range Rover.” He was saying that a gangster isn’t going to ride in a car without tints.
Cindy Malika (Actress, Above the Rim): We were about to shoot the scene before he was going to get shot in the movie. This was after his friend in the movie [Wood Harris] got shot. Tupac called over the prop master and asked for a bottle of alcohol to sit on the table. The prop master was like, “I don’t know. It’s going to get a little crazy. It might spill and make a mess.” And Pac was like, “My best friend just died. I’m not going to sit here with one drink at a time, I’m going to want a bottle here in front of me.” That’s real. Tupac then went over and asked the director for the bottle because Tupac thought it was that important.
Martin (Actor, Above the Rim): We were on set and Tupac had just got back from Atlanta. Me and Marlon [Wayans] went to his room, and the first thing Marlon said was, “What are you doing man? You need to take the ‘T’ off of your stomach and you need to put ‘Hug Life.’ You need a hug, nigga.”
Wayans: [My mom] was like, “[Tupac] is a nice boy but he has a bad element around him. My mom told me not to hang out with him. But we hung out on set mostly and that’s when he went through a lot of troubles. I kind of listened to my moms. It wasn’t about him. It was the cloud of trouble around him.
John Enos (Actor, Bullet): We shared a trailer and I would show up the next day and there would be a Vibe magazine, some other hip hop magazines, an empty bucket of chicken and piles of tobacco that were emptied out for blunts. He was out on bail. He didn’t care. We burned the candle hard during that movie. We would get out at about 10 o’clock and go straight out, and then we’d probably have a 9 o’clock call.
Benza: At the time, Mickey was having trouble with [then-wife] Carre Otis. In between scenes, Mickey would be in his trailer holding rosary beads and crying. Tupac would be in his trailer soothing him.
Shakur: Tupac and Mickey Rourke got real tight. We went out once with Mickey and his [wife] at the time. He was like, “Man, Mickey and his girl are going through it again.” Tupac was giving him advice and being a friend. They had a real connection. Mickey was a guy’s guy. Tupac was a guy’s guy too.
John Flock (Producer, Bullet):  Mickey always liked to think of himself as a street guy. I think he felt like Tupac was giving him some street credibility, which is what you want from a 40-year-old actor.
On December 1, 1994, Tupac was convicted on two counts of sexual assault and was sentenced to one and a half to four and a half years in prison. He was released on October 19, 1995. He immediately read the script for Gridlock’d, an offbeat buddy picture starring Tim Roth. Shakur earned the strongest reviews of his career for his depiction of Spoon, an addict looking to get clean.

 

Holmes: Tupac got out of prison and was broke. He wanted to do as much as he could do as he quickly as he could do it so he could get his feet on the ground. When he got out, I gave him the script to Gridlock’d. He got back to me immediately, not more than two days later saying that he would love to do it. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I told him that a commitment has already been made on the other role and was about to go into an explanation who Tim Roth was and he was like, “Aw, man, I love his work.” He surprised me by how much he took to the script and how he aware he was of Tim Roth and his work.

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Beyoncé performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.
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Homecoming: The 5 Best Moments Of Beyoncé’s Documentary

Once Beyoncé became the first African-American woman to headline in its nearly 20-year history, we knew Coachella would never the same. To mark the superstar’s historic moment, the 2018 music and arts festival was appropriately dubbed #Beychella and fans went into a frenzy on social media as her illustrious performance was live-streamed by thousands. (Remember when fans recreated her choreographed number to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”?)

With a legion of dancers, singers and musicians adorned with gorgeous costumes showcasing custom-made crests, the singer’s whirlwind performance honored black Greek letter organizations, Egyptian queen Nefertiti, and paid homage to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Aside from the essence of black musical subgenres like Houston’s chopped and screwed and Washington D.C.’s go-go music, the entertainer performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Black National Anthem,” and implemented a dancehall number, sampling the legendary Jamaican DJ and singer, Sister Nancy, to show off the versatility of black culture.

One year after #Beychella’s historic set, the insightful concert film, Homecoming, began streaming on Netflix and unveiled the rigorous months of planning that went into the iconic event. The 2-hour 17-minute documentary highlights Beyoncé’s enviable work ethic and dedication to her craft, proving why this performance will be cemented in popular culture forever. Here are the best moments from Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary.

The Intentional Blackness

“Instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

Throughout the documentary, Beyoncé made it known that everything and everyone included in the creative process leading up to the annual festival was deliberately chosen. “I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” says Beyoncé. “Every tiny detail had an intention.” When speaking on black people as a collective the entertainer notes, “The swag is limitless.” Perhaps the most beautiful moments in Homecoming are the shots that focus on the uniqueness of black hair and its versatility. What’s appreciated above all is the singer’s commitment to celebrating the various facets of blackness and detailing why black culture needs to be celebrated on a global scale.

Beyoncé’s Love And Respect For HBCUs

#Beychella — which spanned two consecutive weekends of Coachella’s annual festival — was inspired by elements of HBCU homecomings, so it was no surprise when the singer revealed she always wanted to attend one. “I grew up in Houston, Texas visiting Prairie View. We rehearsed at TSU [Texas Southern University] for many years in Third Ward, and I always dreamed of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.” Brief vignettes in the film showcased marching bands, drumlines and the majorettes from notable HBCUs that comprise of the black homecoming experience. In the concert flick, one of the dancers affectionately states, “Homecoming for an HBCU is the Super Bowl. It is the Coachella.” However, beyond the outfits that sport a direct resemblance to Greek organizations, Beyoncé communicated an important message that remains a focal point in the film: “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”

The Familiar Faces

Despite being joined by hundreds of dancers, musicians and singers on-stage, the entertainer was joined by some familiar faces to share the monumental moment with her. While making a minor appearance in the documentary, her husband and rapper/mogul Jay-Z came out to perform “Deja Vu” with his wife. Next, fans were blessed by the best trio to ever do it as Kelly and Michelle joined the singer with renditions of their hit singles including “Say My Name,” “Soldier,” and more. On top of this star-studded list, Solange Knowles graced the “Beychella” stage and playfully danced with her older sister to the infectious “Get Me Bodied.”

Her Balance Of Being A Mother And A Star

Originally slated to headline the annual festival in 2017, the singer notes that she “got pregnant unexpectedly...and it ended up being twins.” Suffering from preeclampsia, high blood pressure, toxemia and undergoing an emergency C-section, the entertainer candidly details how difficult it was adjusting post-partum and how she had to reconnect with her body after experiencing a traumatizing delivery. “In the beginning, it was so many muscle spasms. Just, internally, my body was not connected. My body was not there.” Rehearsing for a total of 8 months, the singer sacrificed quality time with her children in order to nail the technical elements that came with the preparation for her Coachella set. “I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol … and I’m hungry.” Somehow, throughout all of this, she still had to be a mom. “My mind wanted to be with my children,” she says. Perhaps one of the most admirable moments in the film was witnessing Beyoncé’s dedication to her family but also to her craft.

The Wise Words From Black Visionaries

Homecoming opens with a quote from the late, Maya Angelou stating, “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” The film includes rich and prophetic quotes from the likes of Alice Walker, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and notable Black thinkers, reaffirming Beyoncé’s decision to highlight black culture. The quotes speak to her womanhood and the entertainer’s undeniable strength as a black woman.

Blue Ivy’s Cuteness

Last, but certainly not least, Blue Ivy‘s appearance in the concert film is nothing short of precious. One of the special moments in the documentary zeroes in on the 7-year-old singing to a group of people whilst Beyoncé sweetly feeds the lyrics into her ears. After finishing, Blue says: “I wanna do that again” with Beyoncé replying with “You wanna be like mommy, huh?” Seen throughout Homecoming rehearsing and mirroring Beyoncé’s moves, Blue just might follow in her mother’s footsteps as she gets older.

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Trailer Released For Ava DuVernay's Central Park Five Flick, 'When They See Us'

Ava DuVernay's last work of cinematic excellence is coming pretty quickly. The writer and director's forthcoming film When They See Us has officially released the trailer, and in the 30th anniversary of the very event it memorializes. The Netflix film, which takes a look at the true story of the Central Park Five—five black teenaged boys who were falsely convicted for the April 19, 1989 rape of a white female jogger—is set to hit the streaming platform on May 31.

The four-part series will follow the lives of Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Jr., Kevin Richardson and Korey Wise over the course of 25 years, allowing viewers to follow their perspectives from accusation to conviction to exoneration to their eventual settlement in 2014.

 

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On this exact day 30 years ago, a woman was raped in Central Park. Five black + brown boys were framed for her rape. The story you know is the lie that police, prosecutors and Donald Trump told you. WHEN THEY SEE US is the story of the boys from their eyes and their hearts. May 31 on @Netflix.

A post shared by Ava DuVernay (@ava) on Apr 19, 2019 at 9:25am PDT

When They See Us boasts a laundry list of talented stars, including Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Storm Reid, Dascha Polanco, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, and Marquis Rodriguez.

Take a look at the trailer up top.

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Getty Images/Theo Wargo

Wendy Williams' Estranged Husband Reportedly Fired As Executive Producer From Talk Show

Wendy Williams’ estranged husband, Kevin Hunter, was reportedly fired as an executive producer on her eponymous talk show, Deadline reports. The news follows a tumultuous time for the host, who allegedly filed for divorce due to Hunter’s reported infidelity.

Since 2011, Hunter served as an executive producer of The Wendy Williams Show. Nationally syndicated and distributed by Debmar-Mercury, the company issued a statement on Hunter’s departure. “Kevin Hunter is no longer an Executive Producer on The Wendy Williams Show. Debmar-Mercury wishes him well in his future endeavors,” a spokesperson for the company told Deadline.

Williams tearfully admitted on her show in March that she relapsed and was living in a sober house. Prior to that, she embarked on a brief hiatus from the show due to health concerns as she was recovering from a fractured shoulder. The show then took another hiatus because of her bout with Graves disease.

Hunter recently spoke out publicly about the divorce and has expressed remorse for what he did to their marriage. “I am not proud of my recent actions and take full accountability and apologize to my wife, my family and her amazing fans,” Hunter told PEOPLE. “I am going through a time of self-reflection and am trying to right some wrongs.”

“Twenty-eight years ago I met an amazing woman: Wendy Williams. At the time, I didn’t realize that she would not only become my wife, but would also change the face of entertainment and the world," he said. "I have dedicated most of our lives to the business empire that is Wendy Williams Hunter, a person that I truly love and respect unconditionally."

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