Tupac died at the University Medical Center Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, but 21 years later, his life and legacy are still being examined through hip-hop tales about the culture at its peak.
Pac's latest visual resurrection comes in the form USA Network’s 10-episode, true-crime miniseries, Unsolved: The Murders Tupac & Biggie (Tuesdays, 10/9c), which examines the lives Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace and Tupac Shakur beyond their music and time in and out recording studios. Starring Wavyy Jonez as Biggie and Josh Duhamel as LAPD Detective Greg Kading, Unsolved producers enlisted a familiar face to bring Pac's story to the small screen: Marcc Rose, an actor only three years deep into his career whose first feature film role was portraying the rapper in 2015's Straight Outta Compton.
As Unsolved aims to give viewers a more intimate look at Tupac Shakur’s life, his portrayer strives to do the same. "With Unsolved, I get a chance to peel back the layers more than that, outside the music. It’s more Tupac, the human," Rose reveals to The Boombox.
In the interview below, Rose dishes on his relationship with hip-hop culture, how he transformed his mind to think like the lyrically refined poet and what conspiracy theory about Tupac's and Biggie's deaths he believes most.
Being that you were so young when Tupac was at his prime, what did you have to take on and learn to go into this role?
I think damn near everything, because the fact that I didn’t grow up in that era – I was a kid. I had to double my homework and just find out who these guys were – aside from just the artists that we know and love and aside from what the media was putting out at that time, which was the East Coast/West Coast beef. That’s all I knew. Before I got the role and before I read the script, I had to do a lot digging.
What about once you got the role?
I spoke a lot] to Mopreme Shakur, who’s Tupac’s older brother. He was on the set with me day in and day out. He taught me Pac] was built for this; that he was built to be a leader. I had to strip] myself what I was familiar with me as Marcc Rose…and become Pac. I needed] to train my mind the way he trained his. And just having Anthony Hemingway a phenomenal director … made me feel comfortable and helped take away that pressure that’s there when] playing an icon i.e. someone as big as Pac.
Did you get the chance to speak to any other members his family or anyone with a heavy influence in his life?
I got the chance to meet Tupac’s mom, Afeni, before she passed away. I got a chance to meet Tupac’s sister, Sekyiwa. There were so many hard scenes…and a lot moments that really happened were also very emotional for everybody on set – Mopreme] especially. But] he sat there to give me insight and pulled me to the side and let me know what was what and how something went down or if it didn’t go that way or if his hat was tilted. It was just the detail that was around.
So you got an up close look into what Pac’s life was really like.
It means a lot to have that input and to have that insight. And for them to trust me to bring rawness and authenticity to their relative. To everybody else, we idolize him and we are fans him, but to them this is their brother; this is their son; this is their cousin.
The stories Christopher Wallace's and Tupac Shakur’s deaths are pretty well known. What do you think this series will teach viewers who are already familiar with the two biggest casualties the East Coast/West Coast war?
I think there are a few messages. One, it will teach them that in this industry, these people are human beings. Just because they’re on your TV screen or on the radio, they’re still humans with human hearts and family members with feelings. Two, there was a thorough investigation that went on for 20 years. And there were detectives who were really trying to get this case solved – it didn’t just go under the radar like people thought. And three, I think it will show people that these two died very, very young – at 24 and 25 –and I’m 25 now. I think it’s a message that you don’t leave anything unsaid, or if there are any issues you have with friends – because they were friends – don’t wait until it’s too late to call them or to speak to them.
There are a million conspiracies around ‘Pac and Biggie’s deaths—
Can I tell you mine? It’s the one where they’re both in Cuba playing cards – like spades or something. Years ago I was hearing just Pac was out there, but I guess as time progressed, Biggie went out there and joined him.
What’s the difference between this role and the role you played in Straight Outta Compton?
In Straight Outta Compton, they weren’t really following Tupac. It was a cameo, and my job was to show him in the light and excitement being in the studio and his relationship with Dr. Dre. With Unsolved, I get a chance to peel back the layers more than that, outside the music. It’s more Tupac, the human; his relationship and friendship with Christopher Wallace; his relationship with his mom and his friends.
Do you feel pressure on your career now that you’re kind Hollywood’s new “face” Tupac? Are you scared that these roles will typecast you?
No, not at all because at the end the day I’m just an actor. I’m not Tupac. I’m not trying to be Tupac. I just plan to use this role as a platform to continue to keep going and continue to grab roles. In this role], I got a chance to really show my range in my acting. And what’s so dope, is when I’m outside the role, I have a full beard. And my beard grows pretty quick, so I’m not worried! I’m just Marcc.
You’re a relatively new actor who’s playing a music icon. What’s your relationship with hip-hop?
I love music. I grew up around music. My dad played instruments. And my parents are huge fans both Pac and Big, so for me to be able to portray somebody so iconic and legendary and somebody who my parents look up to and who the world looks up to is just crazy to me. It’s a blessing.