Channeling Jada Pinkett came naturally for Kat Graham in the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez On Me,” out Friday.
Pinkett and Shakur became friends while attending high school at Baltimore School For The Arts and remained close until his death. The rapper was killed in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas in September 1995 at the age of 25.
“Not many people know they were best friends and kind of rose up together,” said Graham from the iHeartSummer ’17 Weekend at the Fontainebleau Saturday night. “I think this movie honors their relationship as well as his legacy.”
To prepare for the role, “The Vampire Diaries” star watched all of Pinkett’s movies and was able to consult with the actress, who is married to Will Smith.
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“I’ve talked to Jada and she’s been so supportive,” said Graham of the actress who Tweeted that the movie wasn’t entirely accurate. “I did my best to try to represent this incredible woman and her body of work. She’s one of my idols and I tried to do her justice. It went beyond imitiation — it was finding ways to embody her energy and honor the meaningful relationship she and Tupac shared.”
Was it a challenge to play a real person?
“Yeah, definitely,” admitted Graham. “Besides the fact that Jada is someone I’ve looked up to for as long as I can remember she is still very much a force in this industry.”
The Swiss native thinks this film comes at an important time —it’s the first feature film about the so-called thug rapper, although there have been documentaries about his life and death.
“I kind of became an expert on Tupac,” she said. “What’s often not known about him is that he celebrated diversity, which really resonated with me, especially with all that’s going on in the country right now. He was someone who was more than an artist. He was a socially conscious activist — he stood up for others in the music industry and helped empower them.”
Speaking of activism and trying to enact change, Graham — when she’s not memorizing scripts — she is an International Goodwill Ambassador for Empower 54, a nonprofit helping provide humanitarian assistance to underprivileged communities.
“I’m not a celebrity just to be a celebrity,” said the 27-year-old. “This job is not just walking a red carpet. There should be a message behind your music and your roles you take. It has to be a bit bigger than yourself.”
She wouldn’t have it any other way.
“If I’m not using my platform to talk about issues like foreign aid, gay rights, human rights, then what I am doing? I’m just taking up space,” she said. “I have a platform. I’ve made my mark. I’m proud to be weird and different.”