Anthony Hemingway, a director from ‘Underground,’ takes on the ‘Unsolved’ killings of Biggie and Tupac
New USA Network series: ‘It allows you to see how human this story is — how universal it is’
Tupac and Biggie and their untimely — and unresolved — deaths: Sadly, it’s a story we all feel we know so well. Turns out, there’s much that even the most nerdy of hip-hop fans don’t know.
That’s where USA Network’s Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. comes in. Starting Tuesday night, the network will air a 10-part limited series that will examine the origin stories, the friendship, the deaths and the aftermath of the two artists’ deaths. Marcc Rose and Wavyy Jonez portray Shakur and Biggie, respectively, and their characters are in the foreground of what is actually a deep dive into the Los Angeles Police Department’s investigations of the cases. The series was created and written by Kyle Long, and the series is largely directed by Anthony Hemingway, who helped to shape WGN’s much-loved and now-canceled Underground. Hemingway approaches Unsolved with a similar historical paintbrush — the one that turned the slave diary trope on its head. And, as usual, Hemingway gives us something for the culture.
Why did you want to be a part of this project?
Like many of the other things I’ve been blessed and fortunate to work on — Underground, especially — I had an opportunity to [showcase] our culture. I’m continuing to find opportunities that speak to that, that allow us to learn more about ourselves. We have to know about our past and our history before we can move on. And so examining this story that took place 20-some years ago, we get to see these two young men who actually supported each other. I don’t see enough of that right now. Underground showed us our strength and the superheroes that we are. … Unsolved does that too. We get to … learn how to even be confident in ourselves, and to not lose ourselves. So many layers … those are the highlights for me in this.
It’s a story from 20 years ago, but this has a contemporary feel to it — that feels deliberate.
It allows you to really see how human this story is, and how universal it is. Seeing how their music transcended so many lines. From old to young, no matter what creed, color, race you come from. They impacted and affected people, and people loved them. It does feel like today. We still rock and jam to their music. It’s timeless, and it’s one of these stories that I think will continue to be relevant.
The diversity behind the camera right now must feel encouraging. It’s allowing for stories like this to be told.
Yes, but … even with seeing this progress, we can’t get comfortable. We have to continue to strive to be the best. To continue paving the way and opening doors for those behind us. I know there were many before me, and knowing and understanding that is not lost on me. I don’t take it for granted, this opportunity. And it really gets me a lot of times when I see young kids come up to me in various places and are inspired. It’s the things and the people that you touch that you don’t realize. And I love that we’re able to hit it on many levels of different scales, from comedy to drama to action to sci-fi. We’re covering all the bases … I’m having a great time. When Malcolm Lee called me to direct second unit on Girls Trip, I did not flinch. I said, ‘Absolutely, what are the dates?’
Is stuff like that happening a great deal right now?
Kenya Barris is creating things and is calling me like, ‘I want you to do this. You tell this story right.’ And I’m loving that we are doing what we talk about all the time. We practice what we preach … I pray that it continues. It’s up to us to help make sure it continues. And not just find that moment where we say, ‘We made it.’ We have still have so far to go.