Tupac Shakur and Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace are two iconic names that immediately fill most people with a nostalgic excitement and passion. Many people often have a lot to say about these hip-hop legends. Their honest and often controversial song lyrics are still studied and recited today, and their public personas are often imitated. It’s undeniable that the two musicians, who died over two decades ago, are an important part of American history and culture.
The rappers’ early deaths are also a key subject of many conversations. Both of their murders were drive-by shootings, and both still remain unsolved. The new USA series, Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. will attempt to dive into each of their eerily similar cases to unwrap some truths and dig deeper into the personal lives of the music megastars.
Newcomer Wavyy Jonez plays Biggie. This is his first acting role ever, earning the part through an open call. “I was on the internet and I had a rap video up, and somebody hit me up and said, ‘You remind me of Big.’ They sent me the casting call and I was like, man this is a scam,” Jonez recalled. “At first I ain’t believe. I ain’t think it was real, but I went and looked. I was like, man let me just give it a shot. I gave it a shot and they called me back. Then, I tested for the role and they called me, and told me I got the role.”
On the opposite end, Tupac is played by Marcc Rose. This will be the actor’s second time playing the hip-hop figure. He first filled Shakur’s shoes in 2015’s blockbuster, Straight Outta Compton. When asked if he was apprehensive about replaying the icon, Rose said he wasn’t, because the Unsolved story was a bigger look into the artist’s life. “What made me want to portray him another time was the script, written by Kyle Long,” he explained. “(Playing Tupac in Straight Outta Compton) was real short and my job was to just show Pac in the studio. Show him excited. Show how he would feel in the studio. That was my only task. This time around, it’s so much more to do. And I love challenges and I realized I got a chance to peel back the layers of Tupac and really show people who Tupac was.”
One fact that is often overlooked is that Biggie and Tupac were actually friends. Unsolved will explore that relationship deeper than previous films and documentaries about the musicians. “The difference that this show has is that you get a chance to see the friendship that Tupac and Biggie actually had. Often, we see everybody broadcasting beef that Tupac and Biggie had, but nobody spoke about the friendship.”
The question that many will undoubtedly have is, how accurate could a TV series about a pair of unsolved murder cases actually be? Rose admitted to being weary himself, but was reassured by the great writing and thorough fact-checking. “I had to question a few things myself, as a fan and as an actor, while I was reading a few of the scenes.” He further detailed a specific scene that made him wonder about the story’s authenticity. “In the pilot, there’s a scene where you see Biggie and Tupac, as well as a few of their friends, running around in the backyard with guns. And then sprinklers come on; now they’re running through sprinklers and stuff,” the actor described. “I just remember reading it and I’m like, obviously this did not happen. I had a conversation with the writer, Kyle Long, and it actually happened. It’s real, it’s noted, it’s factual. The friends who were there in the backyard spoke about that experience in real life. And I was like, ‘wow.’ Kyle Long really, really did his research with bringing all the facts and stuff together.”
Now that the series is set to premiere this month, what should viewers, who are fans of Biggie and Tupac, expect during the 10 episode run? Rose answered this question by saying, “I think it’s up to the fans and the viewers on taking from it what they will. It’s so much information. It may bring some people closure, it may draw some more questions…”
Unsolved: The Murders Of Tupac And The Notorious B.I.G. premieres February 27 on USA Network.