Dominic Santana plays Suge Knight, the infamous CEO of what was once Death Row Records, in the upcoming film All Eyez On Me. Much like the larger than life hip-hop mogul he will portray, Santana stands an intimidating 6’4 and 350 lbs with a seemingly cool demeanor and a high intellect. Fueled by producer Lenton “L.T.” Hutton’s passion and his shared love for Tupac’s legacy, Santana dove headfirst into to the task of filling Knight’s shoes, figuratively and literally. The North Carolina native connected with Knight’s persona during the filming of All Eyez On Me and hopes to challenge the public’s view of him.
See his interview below.
What was it like working on All Eyez On Me?
It was great. It was exciting. As a long time Tupac fan, it meant a lot to me to [have] even been involved with it, let alone as one of the co-stars.
How has Tupac’s legacy affected your life?
I learned more about his activist side. We all knew that was a part of Tupac but we didn’t get to see how deeply rooted that was in him or how he felt about the betterment of Black people. His mother really pushed that into his mind to be woke and be aware of what it’s really like living in America as a Black man. I think as he evolved, Tupac the rapper was becoming more of Tupac the activist. The depth of his activism and the activist side of him, we didn’t really have a full picture of, but in this movie, you get that.
There was rumored to be some opposition in the beginning from Tupac’s family regarding making this film. How do you think they will feel about the finished product?
It’s been pushed out that every family member didn’t want anything to do with the project. It’s not all of them. I can’t speak on behalf of Tupac’s family because it’s not my place.The ones that do have an issue with it without seeing it, if they give the film a chance, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.They will see that there was love and heart put into this film. This was a great representation of who Tupac was. People have had 20 years to put out a movie showing how they think he should be portrayed, and one person did it.
With playing Suge Knight, were there certain experiences that you pulled from to bring Suge to life?
Suge Knight and I are both Aries. Our core is pretty similar but our personalities differ. I’m a tall, big dude like Suge also. Being an Aries, you don’t take no mess and are determined to get things done by any means. Would I go to some of the extremes that Suge went to? No, but that’s how he decided to take it. Aries are hot tempered but we’ll also give you the shirt off our backs if we love you. That helped me a lot to bring that [persona] forward.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about Suge now that you’ve portrayed him in the movie?
I’ve always felt there was a big misconception about Suge just by how the media can portray people in certain lanes. It’s also some of his own fault because of Death Row’s image of not taking no mess and being the tough guys. Even though they were really about that life, by pushing that image out there, the media took that image and bastardized it, making it worse than it really was. We’ve all done some things wrong. He went to the extreme more than most but he was also a business mogul and multi-millionaire. Coming from the streets to going to college to starting his label, he brought us some of the most iconic artists the world has ever seen. He made history. That’s no big brute or dummy, that’s an intelligent, calculating person with vision. At that time a Black man owning a record label, didn’t get the type of respect or amount of control Suge Knight had. People are gonna judge and say the way he went about it was wrong or they say that’s how things had to be done. In my opinion, he’s just like myself or anyone else. I wouldn’t want to be looked at as just my mistakes. Everyone should be afforded the same opportunity to not be just remembered for or judged by only their mistakes.
What do you want viewers to take away from All Eyez On Me when it debuts on June 16?
It’s about getting to know Tupac Shakur the person. It’s not a hip-hop movie or a movie about a rapper. You get to see what made him who he was from the beginning. Fans finally have closure on Tupac. There are a lot of jewels in the movie that come from Tupac, Afeni, and even Suge. You’ll pick up on them. He dropped gems about the fight, the struggle and what was happening to our people 20 years ago that still has to be discussed today. It really sparked that discussion that we are all in this together. We all have to figure this out. The only way that is going to happen is if we bound together to stop the nonsense.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any epic projects coming up?
I have an epic one that I can’t talk about just. My production partner, Jason Beacham and I are producing a TV show that I’m a co-executive producer on as well as creating a scripted TV series I will be starring in. I also have some offers on the table for some other films. What I’m really excited about is my upcoming trip to Kenya to partner with this great organization called Zoe Helps. They teach kids who lost their parents how to provide for themselves so they’re not beggars out on the streets, prostitutes or anything negative. Me and a couple of my celebrity friends are going to visit and film a documentary about the whole process and what this great organization does. Proceeds from the release are going to Zoe Helps. Hopefully, we’ll expose more people around the world to their work.
Catch Dominic Santana as Suge Knight when All Eyez On Me opens in theaters June 16. Follow him on social media as @officialdomsantana on Instagram, @dominicsantana on Twitter, @santanadom on Snapchat and Dominic Santana on Facebook.
See photos of Santana below: