*For any fan of hip-hop cinema, “Juice” has to rank among the genre’s top films.
With this year marking 25 years since the Ernest Dickerson-helmed drama came to movie theaters, thoughts shift toward the scene that can be put in the favorite zone.
That scene could range from Omar Epps’ Quincy “Q” Powell getting an unattractive record store worker’s phone number while his crew steals vintage vinyl … to Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) pouring the contents of his 40 oz. into eggs and bologna to serve to his friends … to Raheem (Khalil Kain) breaking up a heated exchange between Bishop (Tupac Shakur) and Q.
If it’s a challenge to name a standout, don’t worry. Kain is right there with you, since he also can’t contain his favorite “Juice” scene to just one.
“Man, that’s tough,” the actor confessed to EURweb. “Obviously, I like the scene where Q and Bishop get into an argument in the apartment, in Steel’s apartment. It’s a good scene. I even like the scene when Q comes out of the bar and tells us that homie [Blizzard] is in there sticking up the joint.”
There’s no doubt that those scenes, as well as Blizzard telling bar patrons (which included legendary rap duo EPMD) to strip, are standouts. But hearing Kain break down why they resonate with him puts more weight on their overall significance.
“There is a humanization that goes on that’s important,” Kain explained. “It’s especially important when you are portraying young black males. I mean that’s part of the problem socially in this country right now. It always has been, the dehumanization of the black man in America. So anytime we get to see ourselves, especially ourselves as young men exhibiting very human characteristics as opposed to savage animal characteristics, it’s gonna resonate with us in a positive way.”
The humanity behind Kain’s scenes presents a different view of “Juice,” compared to the intensity and fun described by Dickerson, who also co-wrote the classic ’90s drama. For his favorite scene, the filmmaker noted seeing Epps and Shakur perfectly bounce off each other from Q and Bishop’s encounter at school days after Bishop killed Raheem after they and Steel robbed a local store.
“I think one of my favorite scenes is when Q goes back to school and that scene between him and Bishop in the hallway, when he closes the locker door and Bishop is standing right there. I think that’s a chilling scene, when Bishop basically tells him what he feels. So I think that worked out really good and the two guys [Shakur and Epps] had a lot of fun doing that,” Dickerson stated as he disclosed how the intense scene was not so intense while filming it. “You know, it’s really, really cool and really a lot of fun when you see two actors that enjoy bouncing off each other and playing the scene against each other. Especially when the guy you’re playing with is giving back to you when you’re totally in it, when you’re totally concentrated on the work.
“Actually, Tupac used to joke because in the middle of one take, a walkie-talkie went off in the room. And I kind of lost it because they were in each other’s face and they were concentrating and they were really into it. And all of sudden, this walkie goes off and just completely ruins the mood,” Dickerson remembered about the unexpected interference and how Shakur jokingly warned everyone to be wary of Dickerson, should the moment repeat.
“So I said, ‘Who the f–k?!’ I still to this day, don’t know whose walkie it was that went off. My first assistant director refused to tell me. All I know is that he hustled that person off the floor. He didn’t want me to be mad at that person. But whenever we were shooting outside, from then on, whenever a plane flew over, Tupac would say, ‘Uh oh. Get that plane outta here! Ernest is gonna explode. Look out! Look out!’ [Laughs]
Despite the funny disruption, Dickerson is well aware how golden it was to see his two leads giving him their best.
“It was just two guys that were really at the top of their game in a scene. And you could just see it because Omar was a young actor. This was his first gig. This was Tupac’s first gig. And to see two young, really talented guys in an intense scene that are really just going at it with each other and really into it, it was wonderful,” he said. “That’s what making movies is all about, when you see what actors can do and how they bring a whole ‘nother dimension to a scene that you wrote, that just goes beyond what you wrote, just takes it into that whole ‘nother step further.”
Like Kain, multiple “Juice” scenes come to mind for Cindy Herron who played Q’s girlfriend Yolanda.
“I have so many favorites. There are so many scenes that I like,” said the En Vogue member. “I think it was a scene when they were in an abandoned basement of a building, kind of where they would meet and they were discussing and Tupac would just kind of …that’s when you start seeing his sort of…I don’t want to say schizophrenic, but you started seeing another, that other personality kind of go back and be in force with the character that we at first saw and then we just started seeing that really imbalanced side of him.
“I just remember there being a scene where all of a sudden he started kind of having that inner turmoil between right and wrong basically and rationalizing why he felt like they needed to do things his way,” Herron added while confessing to her standout scenes being connected to Shakur. “I believe towards the end of the film, there was a struggle. Was it with him and Tupac on the building on the roof? That, too. It was so intense. And then I liked the relationship Q had with his little brother, too. the relationship between the two of them. I always liked that, too. That was precious to me.”
The remembrance of favorite scenes from “Juice” comes as plans call for the ’90’s classic to be released for the first time on Blu-ray on June 6. The “Juice” 25th anniversary special edition will include new interviews with the cast and crew, including Dickerson, Epps, Hopkins and Kain as well as never-before-seen footage of the cast on set, vintage interviews and a look at the inclusion and impact of hip-hop music in the film.
Do you have a favorite scene from “Juice”? If your scene is the same as those mentioned by the film’s stars and director or not, make it known in the comments section below.