Written by Clement Oluwasegun
Demetrius Shipp Jr. plays Tupac Shakur in “All Eyez on Me,” a movie about Tupac’s life.
His resemblance to Shakur and his dad’s work on one of Shakur’s songs, inspired his act.
According to Shipp:
“My fondest memory of Tupac is my father producing ‘Toss It Up’ for him when I was 7 years old and hearing that he produced that, and that was the biggest guy at the time. So I was like ‘Wow this is dope, my pops did this single.’ …From then on, it was like Tupac forever.”
“Toss It Up” was the first single released after Shakur was shot to death in Las vegas.
Shipp went through a four-year delay between casting and production to really get camera-ready.
“I look at it now as like, even through 2011 back then… and all of these years, being able to see now that I wasn’t ready. It happened at the exact perfect time for me, just even with the alignment of the people that were involved.”
The delay was prompted by the departure of two potential directors and a legal battle with Shakur’s estate over his life rights.
Fortunately, Shipp was unexpectedly reunited with a teacher from his youth during this period.
“As a kid, I was going to her acting classes, not to act for myself but to support my friend. And she was my acting coach all these years later for the Tupac movie… It feels like destiny.”
“All Eyez on Me,” is a movie that tracks Shakur’s life from his teens to his violent death in 1996, with nods to his activist upbringing by his Black Panther parents.
According to Producer L.T. Hutton, a former Death Row Records producer who worked with Shakur:
“I knew from his background and upbringing 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, people would have spent the first hour of the movie wondering, ‘Why is this guy trying to be Tupac?’”
Tupac recorded hundreds of songs and made six movies before his death at age 25 , and that also inspires Shipps.
“His mindset was: Get the work done. Time doesn’t wait for no man. You need to be working, especially for the things that you want to obtain and accomplish. If you want it and you want to get it, then you’ve got to work hard for it, like Tupac was working hard for it.”