Tim­ing just right for star of biopic

StarMetro Toronto - - WEEKEND -

Demetrius Shipp Jr. never acted be­fore play­ing Tu­pac Shakur in All Eyez on Me. But his con­nec­tions to the rap­per, and to act­ing, go back to his child­hood.

Shipp’s un­canny re­sem­blance to Shakur inspired his friends to call him “Pac” in high school. And even be­fore that, Shakur’s mu­sic was part of his life. Shipp’s dad is a mu­sic pro­ducer who worked on one of Shakur’s songs.

“My fond­est mem­ory of Tu­pac is my fa­ther pro­duc­ing ‘Toss It Up’ for him when I was seven years old and hear­ing that,” Shipp said.

“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 in 1996.

Those con­nec­tions didn’t ex­actly pre­pare Shipp to play Shakur in a biopic. But a fouryear de­lay be­tween cast­ing and pro­duc­tion was enough time for the look-alike 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,” said the 28-year-old Shipp. “It hap­pened at the ex­act per­fect time for me, just even with the align­ment of the peo­ple that were in­volved.”

The de­lays — prompted by the de­par­ture of two po­ten­tial di­rec­tors and a le­gal bat­tle with Shakur’s es­tate over his life rights — al­lowed Shipp to prop­erly study act­ing, and he was un­ex­pect­edly re­u­nited with a teacher from his youth.

“As a kid, I was go­ing to her act­ing classes, not to act for my­self but to sup­port my friend,” he re­called. “And she was my act­ing coach all these year later for the Tu­pac movie ... It feels like des­tiny.”

Courtesy Quantrell Col­bert

demetrius shipp Jr. — pic­tured with do­minic l. san­tana as suge Knight — makes his act­ing de­but in all eyez on me.

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