Saturday, July 2, 2022

‘Art Imitates Life’ On USA’s ‘Unsolved’ Tupac and Biggie Murder Series

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Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur
Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur

*”Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.,” the new USA series from showrunner Kyle Long, is set to examine the infamous feud between the iconic rap stars while attempting to solve their murder cases.

Directed by Anthony Hemingway (“Underground”), the story spans three different timelines: 1993, when Biggie Smalls (born Christopher Wallace) and Tupac Shakur are young friends; 1997, as L.A. detective Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson) leads the investigation into B.I.G’s death; and 2006, when a new task force headed by Greg Kading (Josh Duhamel) reopens the case.

At the TCA winter press tour panel Tuesday, newcomer Wavy Jonez called the killings of the two hip-hop legends, Pac in 1996 and Biggie in 1997, “a tragedy.” The New York native also credits Wallace for inspiring him to become a hip-hop artist. Now, he gets to play him in USA’s anthology-drama series airing Feb. 27.  

“As far as me being a hip-hop artist and being from New York, it meant a lot to me to actually go back and try to find, like, what could have disconnected these two, what could have disconnected their bond,” Jonez says. “We go through these things on a day-to-day with not just our family but our friends, and to be able to really go back and just research and look at their friendship and be (led) by Anthony and Kyle into this story, it was a great experience.  I really enjoyed going back to find out who Christopher Wallace was more than just Notorious B.I.G.”

OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Faith Evans Talks A+E ‘Biggie’ Documentary: ‘Greatness Doesn’t Expire’

2018 Winter TCA Tour
Actor Wavyy Jonezl of ‘Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.’ on USA speaks onstage during the NBCUniversal portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 9, 2018 in Pasadena, California.
(Jan. 8, 2018 – Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

Creator/Executor Producer Kyle Long notes, “One of the things I was so fascinated about this story is, if you made it up, people wouldn’t believe it. There’s this whole scene where Biggie and Tupac are running around in the backyard with guns. That really happened. I wouldn’t put that in the show if it didn’t happen because it would have been ridiculous, but it happened in real life.”

Adding, “I feel like it’s going to be one of those shows, hopefully, where people say, “Did that really happen?,” and then the next day, it’s, like, “Yeah, this really happened, and this is when it happened.” There’s some dramatic license taken to compress events to just help tell a story, but it is very, very accurate because I couldn’t have made up stuff better than what happened.”

In the weeks following Biggie’s death, his double-disc album “Life After Death,” released 16 days later, rose to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000, one of the few hip-hop albums to receive this certification.

“Everything he talked about, it’s so New York. And then coming from a single-parent home and just the things he went through was, like it’s almost like chasing that dream and finally conquering it. And to be so massive and to just lose your life like that, like I said, is just a tragedy,” Jonez says.

“I’m glad that this cast and crew came together and USA and UCP allowed us to finally bring hip-hop to the forefront and say what happened to two of our greatest artists ever into hip-hop,” he adds.

2018 Winter TCA Tour
Actor Marcc Rose of ‘Unsolved: The murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.’ on USA speaks onstage during the NBCUniversal portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 9, 2018. in Pasadena, California.
(Jan. 8, 2018 – Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

Marcc Rose, who also played Tupac in “Straight Outta Compton,” was able to meet with the late rapper’s brother and his mother before she passed, and they shared valuable insight which allowed him to better occupy Pac’s headspace for this project. 

“Jumping in and doing research on Tupac, I learned it’s layers of who he was. I’m used to seeing him as just an artist and not really knowing what was behind that, what was underneath that, why he said certain things, why he did certain things. And for me, just digging deep into that and finding his layers and peeling those off, I was able to see that we relate in so many ways,” he explains.

“Why he’d get upset for some reason, it’s passion behind it. He was filled with passion, and I realize that I’m filled with passion as I’m doing this research and digging into him. Also, his brother, Mopreme Shakur, was on set and very, very helpful to me, and I have nothing but love and respect for him for doing so. And I was fortunate enough to meet his mom before she passed and just the personal conversations we had aside from death, of books he read and the family who he surrounded himself with. He came from a large background of just supporters and black, strong people, and I connect with that in the most spiritual way possible.”

2018 Winter TCA Tour
(Top L-R) Creator/Executive producer Kyle Long, guest panelist, actors Jimmi Simpson and Bokeem Woodbine, co-producer/music supervisor Lyah Beth LeFlore, and (Bottom L-R) executive producer Anthony Hemingway, and actors Marcc Rose, Josh Duhamel, and Wavyy Jonez of ‘Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.’ on USA speak onstage during the NBCUniversal portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 9, 2018, in Pasadena, California.
(Jan. 8, 2018 – Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

Director Anthony Hemingway notes that “At its core, we really touch on a family story.  It’s like watching a mother deal with loss and, of course, portrayed by Aisha Hinds, who is magical, and watching her explore, the voice and pain and triumph and strength and courage even as Voletta Wallace was just so beautiful to watch. That’s the fun thing for me. It’s fun to go to work and be with family and friends and just be able to do something that is meaningful and have fun in doing it. I think it was art imitating life for us, and we just had a really dope opportunity at that experience.”

“This story of the assassination of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, they are exemplary of something I’ve always said that “truth is stranger than fiction,” says actor Bokeem Woodbine, who plays Daryn Dupree, a real-life character “who is still the active custodian of the Biggie case.”

“Their real-life stories were allegorical, and we can draw all types of wisdom from what really happened in real life to these young men who were really not even peaking, if you ask me. They were so far ahead of everybody else in their genre and their field, but I think they hadn’t even hit their peak. And the things that happened to them were so fascinating because they were real. And there’s so many instances in this series that you’ll see that you are going to doubt that they really happened because the simpatico and the coincidence and just the bizarre circumstances are almost beyond description,” he continues.

Adding,“So I think this is a very important show, and even if you are not really into hip-hop or you are more into this, what I call, mumble rap nowadays, you are still going to draw so much wisdom and understanding from the time period, and you are going to get a real insight that has not been given before. So I suggest everybody tune in.”

Watch:

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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