All Eyez On Me, the true and untold story of the prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur, from his early days in New York to his status as one of the world’s most recognized and influential voices. Against all odds, Shakur’s raw talent, powerful lyrics, and revolutionary mindset established him as a cultural icon whose legacy continues to grow long after his death.

We caught up with veteran actor Cory Hardrict to talk his role as Nigel aka Haitian Jack in the Benny Boom-directed Pac biopic.

EBONY: Tell us about your role in All Eyez On Me.

Cory Hardrict: I play Nigel aka Haitian Jack. Are you familiar with him?

EBONY: I’m very familiar!

Hardrict: OK (laughs). Well you know it’s the name. The name speaks for itself, man. But, the cool thing about it was I got a chance to speak to him to kinda figure out his relationship with Tupac in the ’90s. What was interesting was that I didn’t know that he was looking out for Tupac as he came to New York. He changed his style. Gave him his first Rolex. He was kind of like a protector of him from what I got from him.

EBONY: Were you a big fan of Tupac prior to the film? And how did working on this project greater your appreciation of his music and what he’s done?

Hardrict: Oh yes! I mean honestly, I’m a huge fan of Tupac. I’m from Chicago and his music helped me kind of get through that phase of my childhood, my teenage years. He was one of the biggest artists of all time and his music got me through just day to day life. He was a key to our generation and culture and he still is, even after his passing. I was a huge fan. His music resonated with me. The song “Dear Mamma”, when that song came out I just lost my mom. That song was very there for me at that moment. With getting up and going to California, that song, I will never forget it. I always think about my mother when I hear it. Not only was Tupac an iconic figure in Hip-Hop, he was an iconic artist across the whole world. He transcends to all races. And everybody loved him. It’s just his honesty. Good or bad, had to love him. 

EBONY: Talk to me about working with director Benny Boom.

Hardrict: Man, Benny is so cool as a director to work with because he’s so calm behind the camera. He lets the actor breathe. He lets you find it. He trusts you. How he deals with production and deals with everybody. It kind of reminds me of Clint Eastwood. He trusts you. He’s not all up in your face, and that’s why I love Benny, man. I believe this movie is going to break him out in a major way as one of the great filmmakers because he comes from doing [music] videos. Shooting some of the most iconic, important Hip-Hop artists of our time.  He brought that element to his creative style of filmmaking and it just really works. I’m looking forward to doing more projects with him.

EBONY: We all love you and your amazing wife Tia. How do you guys keep everything so sane in the crazy world of Hollywood?

Hardrict: Oh Wow! We just don’t get involved with the craziness. Our rule is family first. The outside and the Hollywood world, we just try to keep that where it’s at. We love what we do. We love being home. We love our family, our son. That’s what it’s about for us. We just stay grounded in that. That’s our foundation and Hollywood is crazy. That’s just what it is. We just try not to be a part of that and that’s just what it’s about for me. I’ve been doing this for 23 years and I really love to act. I really love to touch the people with my work and that’s what it’s about. It’s about giving people what they want to see, because I’m a fan first. I love to see someone who’s gonna be real, be truthful to his work and that’s what I try to bring every time I step on a set. That’s what I did for this Tupac movie.

EBONY: What do you hope people will take away from this film?

Hardrict: The number one thing I believe they will take from this film is just how he (Tupac) affected so many people’s lives. His music is timeless. It transcends and they’re gonna take away that he was a revolutionary and that he was idolized. This movie is all about humanity and it didn’t sugarcoat his life. It shows you the ups and downs. From his teenage years to his relationships. He loved women. He loved people. He loved his people. He loved everybody. That’s what I believe they are gonna take away. That he was just a powerful man that wanted to change the world and he did, despite his short time of being here. I think he could have run for president if he was still alive. He had that much influence over people.

All Eyez On Me is in theaters now!