The masses have started to awake with the recent release of the All Eyez on Me trailer. While the biopic’s earlier news of the June 16th release date stunned many, the consistent draw of each trailer prove this film will be nothing short of greatness. While the previews have released scenes featuring the early influences of Tupac Shakur as well as his rise to fame, recent trailers push the influences of Shakur’s step father, mother, and manager Suge Knight.
Many would say that Suge Knight held such an influence on Tupac that would later lead to the slain night in Las Vegas. However, others may say Tupac’s “loose canon” persona led him down the dark road before then. While many discuss the shocking resemblance of Demetrius Shipp Jr. to Tupac Shakur, it is evident that directors LT Hutton and Benny Boom carefully chose their actors as Dominic Santana steps in as the Death Row Records founder.
We had the opportunity to chat with actor, Dominic Santana who has had the opportunity to make his mark on the big screen with the upcoming release of All Eyez on Me.
•Dominic Santana is a name many will soon learn more and more about once the movie drops, tell our following a little bit about yourself pre “All Eyez on Me”.
– Well I’ve been in film about 10 years professionally at least. So I’ve been fortunate to gain a little bit of a following. I think what most people remember me as is “Carlton” from the movie Love For Sale on BET . BET broke a network record spinning that film so that was my first real taste at fame. I’m thankful people will equate me as SUGE now at least for a little while ha ha. Over the years I’ve amassed an array of talents and found my self wearing many hats. I’m rap artist (even though I hate that term because I don’t feel like a rapper) , business owner, a screen writer , a producer, a father, an activist etc. My stage name or pseudonym for music is Gent or as some say “The Incredible Gent”. Music is just as much my love as film even though film became my dominant career.
•How did you jump into the acting world from doing music? Who are some major influences thus far that have pushed you as an actor?
– Early on I was invited to join an entertainment troupe called “Fusion 58” headed up by Thym Kennedy. I didn’t really know much about it or where I fit in but I was an artist and I’m a good one so I was asked to come out. They did really dope musicals that infused all types of talents from acting to R & B to rock to country to rapping etc. It was fun and amazing. Eric Thomosunas the owner of Swirl Films was a popular DJ before that and made a lot of music connects. So when he went into film he used that to get famous artists in his films to give the films more clout. It was brilliant. After I pestered him for months about a role in his follow up film he gave me one of the leads where I met and became good friends with the incomparable Big Daddy Kane who I call friend and mentor to this day. I admire so many great actors it’s hard to narrow it down to a few but Denzel Washington of course is a master of his trade and I’ve spent much time studying his work and interviews etc. He’s been my acting coach for years he just doesn’t know it ha ha. Others like my buddy Tom Sizemore who is an amazing and highly underrated actor is another one. As well as Sam Jackson, Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Danny Glover the list goes on. More recently Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has become one of my biggest idols just because I know how hard it is for a big man whose also tall to stay working in a business dominated by shorter actors.
•The role of Suge Knight had to bring a lot of studying when it comes to the former Death Row CEO, how was it stepping into the world of Suge?
– Growing up a few years on the west I heard a lot about him and Death Row and his artists. So I was familiar with Suge of course but getting in to the mind of Suge was the challenge. I already knew not to rely on what the media put out over the years because they always made him a villain. But I knew there was much more to the man because it’s rare for anyone to accomplish what he did with Death Row. He found artist that changed the genre completely and most of their music is still considered classic to this day. I mean just Snoop, Dre and Pac alone alone are still affecting the world even today. Pac is bigger then ever and people don’t just like Pac they love him. Do you realize how special you have to be to make several generations of people who never met you love you? You’re pretty damn special and very few artist leave that kind of mark on the world and history. Suge saw that in all his artist. He was smart enough to see it and bring it under his umbrella. Then his marketing of these guys and their albums was genius. Suge was big, intimidating to many but also a genius. In music and business. He was also loved by many. It just depended on what side of the line you stood on with Suge. Let’s not forget he did this in the 90’s where it was uncommon for a black man to have such a powerful label. And if you did have one you were walked on all the time. Not Suge though. Suge made it known that Death Row wouldn’t be walked on. In the board room or the streets. That kind of mentality made Death Row artists seem invincible and you could see it in their demeanor. I had to figure out how to get in that version of Suge’s mind. I didn’t want to portray what the media told us Suge was, I wanted to portray what Suge really was. some were scared of him, some loved him, some were inspired by him, some elevated because of him. What really struck me was when he got locked up most recently and I saw an instagram post from his son saying “Don’t worry dad I gotcha, Free Suge”. That blew my mind. No matter what media says or people say, it’s a man’s children that can tell you who he really is by how they speak of him. They also had people on set that knew Suge and were there during Death Row days and I got to sit and just listen to old stories. I loved that you get to see more good and more of the brotherly aspect of him and Pac. He really loved Pac and I think he found the brother he needed in Pac and Pac found the same in him. Two wild, intelligent, deep thinking, motivated brothers that found a running partner. So they ran hard.
• Thoughts on the current adversity today faced by celebrities who are taking a stand and speaking their mind in regards to the police brutality?
– It’s tough because I hear a lot people say what black stars should be doing but it’s really hard for black celebs to really step out there on those issues. Sadly there is still a lot of change needed even in the entertainment field. People don’t realize how much racism exist in the entertainment business still as well. So black celebs who have families and life styles that they worked hard for over years and only God knows what it took for them to get to the big time yet they can really lose it all by stepping out against the machine.Trust me so many of them want to say that’s it enough is enough but sadly in most cases you’re more then likely killing your career when you do it. So they have to decide that they are willing to risk it all to speak out against injustice. As soon as they do they stop getting hired for the big films and lose sponsors and fans turn on them etc. It’s just a really hard thing to do no matter how bad you want to it’s hard to say I’m willing to lose it all.
•What can we expect in the future from Dominic Santana?
– The future is looking bright. Of course more movie roles but there will be scripts made in to films , there will be produced films from me, there will be good music releasing, there will be business deals etc. Mostly the thing I love about fame is being able to go talk to kids and give them words they can keep with them forever. Show them it doesn’t matter where you come from you can still be successful and someone worth looking up to. I think it’s so important to give back. I want to be a voice for the voiceless.Something also important to me is handicap people. My brother is handicap and I think it’s disgraceful how they are treated once they are grown. The lack of services and resources is astounding. I want to bring more awareness to the plight and struggle of handicap children and adults. I want my brother Juan Santana to be the face of a charity that raises awareness and capital to get there folks more services. So it’s a lot of things I’ll be doing and just enjoying life with my son Dominic Jr and giving him all the opportunities I didn’t have growing up.
Thanks for having me I really appreciate you guys. I also want to send a huge shout out to all my amazing cast mates and crew from All Eyez On Me, Eastwood, Sean Baker, Demetrius Ship Jr, Benny Boom, LT Hutton, David Robinson of Morgan Creek, Winsome Sinclair, Terrence Hurd of The Hurd Agency for submitting me, S-Mac, and just everyone who was involved, too many to name but I have love for them all. Especially my mother Tracey Santana who always pushed me and never let me give up.