Demetrius Shipp Jr. is the star of the new biopic about Tupac's life
For his first acting role, 28-year-old Demetrius Shipp Jr. is playing Tupac Shakur in the biopic All Eyez on Me. And he thinks he was born to play the role, because when he was working at a Target store, his coworkers nicknamed him "Pac" because he looked so much like the rap icon.
It was back in 2011 that he first auditioned for the role at the urging of his best friend, who had seen a flyer advertising the national casting search. "I wasn't going to do it, but he convinced me to do it," Shipp says. "I did my audition on the last day before the deadline. And I didn't get the call that I officially had it until 2015!"
The film was directed by another first-timer, Benny Boom, whose previous experience includes mainly TV shows and music videos. "It was dope working with Benny," Shipp says. "He is a guy who really takes his work seriously, all the way, completely, a thousand percent! So you got people working their best and understanding that we can't have a mediocre film with this. It's Tupac! You know what I'm saying?"
To get into the role, Shipp says that he engulfed himself in Shakur's life. "I have to say that I'm a very passionate person," he says. "I'm driven on integrity and my beliefs, and I believe there's definitely a similarity there. Just getting into the character, I fell in love with who he was. It was common things that were brought together with me and him, our childhood. It was a crazy thing to be able to do it."
For the actor, the hardest scene to shoot was the moment when Shakur is shot and killed at just 25. "We waited to shoot it at the very end," Shipp says. "You're coming to the end of it all, and you realise what's really going on, the full spectrum. It was really emotional for me."
Shipp feels that the film is important, because it allows audiences to understand Shakur and his life. "Some people would think that he was just crazy and that wasn't the case," he says. "There aren't many people in the world that are as respected and loved when it comes to entertainment and as big as Pac. But the greatness that I adore the most is him as a man. As a kid, it was just the music. But growing up, becoming a man, and diving deep into his life and seeing exactly what he had to go through, what he overcame, the choices he made and the wisdom he carried at 25. Man, that's something that was amazing."