Monday, June 12, 2017|11:47 a.m.
LOS ANGELES– Demetrius Shipp Jr. never ever acted before playing Tupac Shakur in “All Eyez on Me.” But his connections to the rapper, and to acting, return to his childhood.
Shipp’s uncanny similarity to Shakur influenced his good friends to call him “Pac” in high school. And even prior to that, Shakur’s music became part of his life. Shipp’s papa is a music producer who worked on one of Shakur’s songs.
“My fondest memory of Tupac is my dad producing ‘Toss It Up’ for him when I was 7 years old and hearing that,” Shipp stated. “He produced that, which was the biggest guy at the time. So I resembled ‘Wow this is dope, my pops did this single.’ … From then on it resembled Tupac forever.”
“Toss It Up” was the very first single launched after Shakur was shot to death in Las Vegas in 1996.
Those connections didn’t precisely prepare Shipp to play Shakur in a biopic. However a four-year delay between casting and production sufficed time for the look-alike to actually get camera-ready.
“I look at it now as like, even through 2011 at that time … and all of these years, having the ability to see now that I wasn’t all set,” Shipp stated. “It took place at the precise ideal time for me, simply even with the positioning of individuals that were included.”
The delays– prompted by the departure of 2 possible directors and a legal fight with Shakur’s estate over his life rights– permitted Shipp to effectively study acting, and he was all of a sudden reunited with a teacher from his youth.
“As a kid, I was going to her acting classes, not to act for myself however to support my friend,” he remembered. “And she was my acting coach all these year later for the Tupac motion picture … It seems like destiny.”
Shipp, 28, appears in nearly every frame of “All Eyez on Me,” which tracks Shakur’s life from his teens to his violent death in 1996, with nods to his activist upbringing by his Black Panther moms and dads.
Manufacturer L.T. Hutton, a previous Death Row Records producer who dealt with Shakur, stated he had to cast a lead actor audiences would believe as Tupac, and Shipp was the one.
“I understood from his background and training that Demetrius had the makings of becoming Tupac all the way,” Hutton said. “If I ‘d cast any one of the actors Hollywood was pushing me to use, individuals would have spent the first hour of the film wondering, ‘Why is this guy aiming to be Tupac?'”
Shipp said he’s been motivated by the experience, and by Shakur’s indefatigable work ethic: He tape-recorded numerous tunes and made 6 films prior to his death at age 25.
“His mindset was: Get the work done. Time doesn’t wait for no man. You need to be working, specifically for the things that you want to get and accomplish,” Shipp said. “If you desire it and you want to get it, then you have actually got to work hard for it, like Tupac was working hard for it.”
AP Home entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen added to this report.