‘Juice’ Director on Why Tupac Shakur Was Perfect for the Role

Rapping wasn’t the only thing Tupac Shakur excelled at. Aside from music, he thrived in the acting world. His breakout role came with 1992’s drama Juice. Ironically, he never intended to audition for the part. But the film’s director revealed in a recent interview that Tupac was perfect for the movie due to shared experiences with the character. 

Tupac Shakur poses for photo
Tupac Shakur 1992 | Gary Reyes / Oakland Tribune Staff Archives

Ernest Dickerson says Tupac Shakur embodied his character because they had similar experiences

Tupac was not initially on the radar for the role, or for the film at all. The rapper accompanied his friend Treach of Naughty by Nature to the audition. Treach wanted to play the role of Bishop. But the casting team was immediately intrigued by Tupac.

“We found out later that Tupac trained as an actor in the high school [at the Baltimore School for the Arts],” Dickerson said in an interview with Yahoo in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary. “And the thing that he knew about Bishop is that all of the bravado, the anger, came from pain, and that’s what he put into his auditions. And that’s what he put into the character.”

Source: YouTube

RELATED: Why Tupac Shakur Lost His Role in ‘Higher Learning’

Just like Bishop, Tupac was often intense on set. He even caused some trouble. One person on the set joked that he’d be fired, which led to a physical fight. 

“You know, there were a couple times that he got into trouble,” Dickerson recalled. “But the great thing about Tupac was that he was really interested in people. In Harlem, if he saw somebody that looked like they were going through something, or there was something different about them, he would talk to them. He would spend a lot of time talking with people. Tupac was a great student of human nature.”

‘Juice’ was just the beginning of Tupac’s acting career

After Juice, acting opportunities came easily for the rapper. He landed a leading role alongside Janet Jackson in the John Singleton-directed movie Poetic Justice. He also had roles in Gridlock’d, Above The Rim, Gangs Related, and Bullet. Film wasn’t his only option, he had guest roles in hit television shows including A Different World and In Living Color.

Source: YouTube

RELATED: Janet Jackson on Working With Tupac Shakur: ‘I Adored Him’

In a 1992 MTV interview to promote Juice, the “All Eyez on Me” lyricist spoke of his acting ambitions. “I like that people come up to me and go, ‘You did a good job.’ When all my career it’s been, ‘You guys’ or this or that. I love that somebody came to me and said, ‘Tupac, you’re a great actor. You did a great part.’ So now I want to do that even more and do other parts and even better parts,” he said. “I want a Terminator 2 role…something different so that people can really see the diversity. Because even now, some people go, ‘Wait a minute, that’s just him being him.’”

Many people in the film industry also praised Tupac as an actor. It’s widely believed that he would have fully transitioned from rapping to acting. Unfortunately, he was killed in a drive-by shooting when he was just 25-years-old.

RELATED: Tupac Shakur Was Reportedly Up for a Role That Went to Will Smith