In the over two decades since the death of Tupac Shakur, the legendary rapper has been elevated to a borderline Christ-like status. Fueled by the mystery surrounding his murder in 1996, his well-known feud with East Coast rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (who was killed less than a year later in a similarly ambiguous incident) and the ever-increasing relevancy of his socially conscious lyrics, his image has seeped deeply into mainstream culture.
This Friday, the long-anticipated biopic All Eyez On Me will finally tell his story on the big screen. In this hip-hop history lesson, actor Cory Hardrict tackles the role of one of the genre’s most controversial figures, Jacques “Haitian Jack” Agnant, a manager, promoter and one time friend of the rapper later accused of being involved in an infamous 1994 shooting incident aimed at Tupac.
To prepare for his role, Hardrict actually spoke to the real Haitian Jack about his relationship with Tupac. “If I’m going to play a character, I have to speak to the real guy,” the actor explained. “He played an intricate part during one time frame in Tupac’s life. I spoke with him just to get a sense of who he was during that time. He basically introduced Tupac to the club life and taught him different fashion tips and what to wear and was just looking over him like a big brother figure when Tupac was in New York City.”
When I asked Hardrict if anything surprising came out of his conversation with this feared and controversial character, he was nonchalant. “You read the stories, but talking to him, he was just a man hanging out,” he said. “It was two men talking. It was great just to hear from him and hear how he viewed Tupac. I took his words and just went with that in the movie.”
Hardrict might not have been phased by a casual conversation with Haitian Jack, but the legacy of Tupac and the importance of this film are not lost on him at all. “Tupac changed the world with his music,” he said. “It’s bigger than rap and hip-hop. I mean, Tupac was just inducted into the rock & roll hall of fame, so there you have it. He appeals to every genre, race, creed, gender across the whole globe. And he was a revolutionary. I believe if he was still alive could have been the president.”
We can’t know what Tupac would be doing now, but 2017 certainly seems like high time to celebrate the rapper’s immense contribution to culture. And later this year, Hardrict will continue to do just that when he appears in a second Tupac-centric film, a crime drama called LAbyrinth. Starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker, the thriller will follow the investigation sparked by the murders of both Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.. “I’m always playing these gang characters,” Hardrict said of his minor role. “It’s just acting.”
In his personal life, Hardrict could not be further from the two characters discussed here. Married to Tia Mowry since 2008, he says he can typically be found at home with her and their son, trying his hand at cooking or, more likely, eating something she made. “My favorite thing that she makes? I would say turkey meatballs with pasta,” he said. “Oh my gosh. She could open a restaurant and sell it.”
All images: Nate Taylor