It’s another rainy day in Miami. One of several consecutive cloudy, dreary days when TMG speaks with Dominc Santana. The future, however, is bright for Dominic. The Fayetteville, N.C. born actor is about to burst onto the scene as the infamous Suge Knight in the Morgan Creek film “All Eyes On Me” detailing the life of the iconic Tupac Shakur.
Dominic started his career in small roles in films such as “Black Knight” with Martin Lawrence and TV hits like “Dawson’s Creek”. He’s also appeared in shows and films like “Whitaker Bay”, “Palmetto Pointe”, “Little Britain” and more.
We were eager to sit down with him and get a sense of the actor playing one of the most notable personalities in hip hop history:
TMG How is the excitement building for you in anticipation of the premiere?
DS Of course it’s very exciting. Not only for myself but for the current (and soon to be) fans of Tupac to get to see this. They’ve been eagerly waiting for so long to see this story being told. They were there since we started filming and continued to follow us. I can’t wait for them to see it and what we did and how this can add to Tupac’s legacy.
TMG From what we understand, this role came to you somewhat by surprise. What happened?
DS Well it actually came up through the usual channel via my agent, however, what I didn’t know was that he had gone ahead and submitted me for the role. I had no idea he had done it. He called me up one day and said “Hey they’re shooting a Tupac movie and I submitted you for the role of Suge Knight”. It surprised me because I never thought of playing a character like Suge before. I don’t know why. It never even crossed my mind. I was one of the fans waiting on a Tupac movie as well. And so it all kinda came together and I’m crazy happy about it.
TMG That’s cool to hear. So let us ask you this..Suge Knight personified what it was like to be a business man and a bonafide gangsta at the same time. What kind of research did you personally do to prepare yourself to play one of the most notorious figures in music history?
DS Walking into the role there were a few things I could immediately relate on. When you’re a big and tall man like I am people are initially intimidated so that’s one thing. Suge is an Aries I’m an Aries so our dispositions are the same. That aggressive side that aggressive nature comes through at times. I’ve been an business owner and entrepreneur I haven’t really worked for anybody since I was like 21 yrs old. Being the boss being your own man. I tapped into that experience definitely. Having people under you that you have to be in charge of. The rest of it I did a lot of research digging up old videos especially obscure and candid ones. Ones that would show certain looks and mannerisms. Seeing Tupac and Suge interact. All those nuances helped. The biggest thing was having people who really knew them and know Suge like the main producer LT Hutton. He was at Death Row and started there. He spent a lot of time around them both and he help guide my study and research. The Outlawz, Dazz and others.. Much in the same way. They all shared stories. All these amazing stories that nobody knows to this day and they would just share all this insight. Even down to the twitch’s that Suge makes in his shoulder because of nerve problems. I absorbed it all.
TMG If you had to say being on set and being part of the production process, What was the one key takeaway that you took away about Tupac that you didn’t know or realize before?
DS As I said, being a big fan of his I’ve spent a lot of time reading his poetry and song lyrics, listening to his music. What I really was amazed at was how involved he was on the activism side. We all knew he had that side but I didn’t realize how deeply it resonated with him. Or how big a part of his life it really was. I mean starting from childhood ya know with his mother being an well known activist with the Black Panthers and step father and other family members. I really think that had things been different, and he didn’t go down the music road, he would have been an activist and/or community leader. Some kind of leader fighting for rights.
TMG There’s a particular scene in the movie which we understand was an actual recreation of Tupac’s historic House Of Blues performance. It’s been said that the atmosphere on set was as if Tupac himself was there in spirit. Were you on set that day and what can you share?
DS Man that was one of my favorite days filming. I was scheduled to shoot all day but I didn’t have any actual lines that day. I was where they had built a VIP across from the stage in the crowd for the Death Row inner circle. All they needed from us were reaction shots to the party and the entire vibe of the place. We were there partying with girls and stuff. Hard work right.. LOL But I had the best seat in the house for this. It was a pivotal part of the film and Demetrius who plays Tupac was almost like possessed by him. This is when we all saw him in Tupac ‘the performer’ mode in his prime running around the stage. I had no idea how deep he put himself into it. He really did an amazing job. His every move was spot on. He was smashing it. That energy transferred to everyone there and so we really started to party like we were there. That day was just incredible.
TMG Speaking of Demetrius we also understand this might be one of his first acting roles if not his first ever acting role. For someone like yourself who’ve acted before and now you’re in a film with the lead who comes onset with just raw talent, how did you adapt to that?
DS The great thing about all of this was that in order to find Tupac you were gonna have to find a diamond in the rough. Period. I’m sure there are great actors but to capture the essence of this character they had to go with raw talent. I heard Michael B. Jordan was being considered at one point and he’s a phenomenal actor but I’m sure the producers didn’t see that either. He signed on in 2011 so all things considered he’s been studying and training and taking acting lessons from Angela Gibbs (an incredible acting coach and actress) for years to prepare for this role. I heard he even did some Shakespeare as Tupac had also done during his school years. This was way before I even auditioned so its arguable he’s worked harder than most.
TMG Tupac’s death is one of the most unfortunate occurrences in music history. What was it like to literally have a seat in the middle of the recreation of that fateful moment?
DS To know about it for so long and to remember it happening to go from that to sitting on the corner of Flamingo and Koval in 95 BMW next to someone who looks and dressed exactly as Tupac was unreal. You know what happens in that moment and it was rough actually. There were so many funny, intense and happy moments captured during the film and then to build up to and be there for this one, as fans, it was rough. Normally films are shot out of sequence but in this case this was actually the last scene shot and it was near the end of this amazing experience. It’s always emotional the last day of any shoot because you’re been working with these people day in and day out. And then for that to be the last scene. Creatively it gave that scene so much weight because it was truly the end of everything.
TMG For us, Tupac’s story is timeless. Not only for his rich musical history but also because of the abuse of power coming from the police. Which is still happening to this day. These elements of power and corruption still resonate so any thoughts on that?
DS It’s crazy because those elements are definitely still in play and we’re still dealing with them and we’re still seeing them in our society. We’re still having those discussions and seeing those situations. I tell people everyday.. You wanna be blown away listen to Tupac’s song ‘Changes’. You would think that he just released that song two weeks ago. You know what i mean. I mean that’s 20 years ago he was pointing out things to people. And these things are still not being addressed. I’ve experienced it in my own life multiple times.
TMG We’re gonna put you on the spot. Favorite Tupac tracks and after making the film do they mean even more to you now.
DS That’s tough to narrow to just two. I’ll go with ‘Me Against The World’ and ‘Changes’ which is one I always listen to. I’m very much in tuned with black and brown people and I always seem to get something from it. I’m a firm believer that entertainers, actors, etc. should use their notoriety to speak up on certain issues. I’ve had people try and hush me from speaking up. My mantra is I’d rather die on my feet and then live on my knees. Those tracks inspire me.
TMG What’s next for you
DS Several more films that I can really speak about publicly yet. I’m also a screen writer so looking to expand into that area a bit more moving forward.
TMG We wish you and amazing opening weekend and looking forward to seeing more of you in the future.
DS Thanks.. I’ll be keeping up with The Man Guide too.
All Eyez On Me opens this weekend