“He’s a human being first.”
This was one of the ways Cory Hardrict began to describe his character, Haitian Jack, also known as Nigel, in the Tupac Shakur biopic, “All Eyez on Me.”
Former music manager and promoter, Haitian Jack was known and feared for his extortion tactics in the hip-hop industry. Jack’s relationship with Tupac turned sour after it was rumored that Jack was involved in the 1994 New York Quad Studios shooting and robbery of Shakur.
“He definitely has a menacing quality about him but he’s just a real person. I believe that he thinks that he cares about Tupac. He introduced [Tupac] to his first Rolex, how to dress when he got to New York City and protected him on the nightlife scene. People know he was not one to mess around,” says Hardrict when recalling the best way to describe his character.
Although Tupac famously name dropped Jack in his song, “Against All Odds”, where he accuses him of arranging the 1994 shooting and being a FBI informant, the two had a friendship at one point.
“There was one moment in the film where I ask him if he needs something and it was kind of like a crossroads, a turning point in their relationship. I had some money and some different things going on. We kind of had a look in each other eyes like that was a turning point. I believe that was a pivotal point in movie and real life as well. It felt real,” says Hardrict.
This isn’t Hardrict’s first time playing a character caught up in street life. In Netflix’s “Brotherly Love,” he plays June, an older brother who uses illegal means to provide for his family. To Hardrict, there isn’t that much of difference between playing gangster roles like June and Jack other than the fact the Haitian Jack is still alive.
“You play one villain; you’ve played them all. But I think [Jack] was more than that. He also had some light moments as well because scary guys aren’t tough all the time. They have a sense of humor and I tried to show that as well. I gravitate towards playing these roles for some reason. They’re fun. Someone has to be the bad guy so why not me?” says Hardrict.
To prepare himself for the role, Hardrict spoke with the real Haitian Jack various times throughout filming. Hardrict says that Jack would check in with director Benny Boom and producer L.T. Hutton to talk about Hardrict’s portrayal.
“We got along and talked over the phone. [Haitian Jack] was very helpful with bringing his character to life. He would call and let me know he was proud of me representing him and the character,” says Hardrict.
Along with speaking with Haitian Jack over the phone, Hardrict also watched the film Juice, read articles about the iconic rapper and frequently listened to Tupac’s music.
“I really just wanted to embody that era and essence of that timeframe in which he was alive and bring my own interpretation to it as well through my character,” explains Hardrict.
Hardrict has a very personal connection to Tupac’s music. His favorite Pac song is “Dear Mama,” which was released around the time his mother passed away from Leukemia. It was played in the car ride to her funeral.
“[Dear Mama] always stuck with me. It brings back memories of me missing my mom. To this day I can never forget that song. It’s very meaningful,” said Hardrict.
The American Sniper star says that it feels great to be a part of a movie tied to the legacy of a global cultural icon especially since he grew up listening to the rapper. Hardrict believes the movie will help keep Tupac’s legacy to continue to live on.
“He’s been alive for 21 years and [the movie] is going to keep him alive for another 30, 40 years. He was already a timeless iconic figure that’s not going anywhere. We lost someone that was special who could have revitalized the culture. He has a positive impact on the world to this day. He got inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Rock Hall of Fame and that speaks to itself,” expresses Hardrict.
The actor feels that audiences will enjoy the film and hopes fans will walk away from the movie feeling more inspired, fearless, and revolutionary.
“Pac was a fearless guy who was very vocal and if you channel that energy in the right way you can change the world. That’s all Pac wanted to do, to have that voice to change the world. I think in his timeframe here he did change the world. I want the youth to be inspired and feel that they can do all things too. Live a positive life and just go after it,” says Hardrict.
Along with All Eyez on Me, Cory Hardrict is set to star in a number of projects coming out this year including November Criminals, Naked, and Labyrinth.
All Eyez on Me debuts in theaters Friday, June 16.