12:43pm PT by Bryn Elise Sandberg
USA's 'Unsolved' Aims to "Humanize" Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.
USA Network is setting out to challenge perceptions with its new true-crime anthology series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious BIG.
The drama, which delves deep into the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (aka Christopher Wallace), is set to launch Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Ahead of Unsolved's debut, USA on Tuesday trotted out the cast and producers behind the series at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena.
On hand to field questions about the show were creator Kyle Long, executive producer-director Anthony Hemingway, music supervisor Lyah Beth LeFlore and castmembers Josh Duhamel, Bokeem Woodbine, Jimmi Simpson, Marcc Rose and Wavyy Jonez. Together, they explained that they set out to tell a very human story.
"We are starting at a place where we tap into their friendship, the innocence of who these guys were before celebrity," said Hemingway, who served as a producer and director on American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Echoed creator Kyle Long, "I never conceived the show in a way that we were going to be super-dependent on the music. It’s much more about them as young men and us trying to humanize them."
Unsolved chronicles the dual police investigations into the suspicious murders of the two rap stars and is based on the experiences of former LAPD Detective Greg Kading, who served as a consultant on the pilot script and is a co-executive producer on the show. Kading led multiple task forces investigating the 1996 and 1997 murders, and also authored the book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations.
LeFlore, who handled the music on the show, actually crossed paths with Shakur and Wallace years ago while she was at Uptown Records and experienced the pair's friendship and relationship. "The beauty of this show, especially in the pilot, is we have the opportunity to explore from 1993 to 2007, a time that for me feels like the golden age of hip-hop and R&B music," she said. "The music you hear in the pilot and in the series is reflected by the era. We pay homage to Biggie and Tupac, their legacies, what they mean as cultural icons to hip-hop."
As for the second season of the anthology series, Long told reporters that they just wrapped filming on the current season in December so he was still mulling over ideas (he's read over 30 books as potential topics) for what's next. He's also trying to figure out if the next crime explored has to be truly "unsolved," as the title suggests, or if it could potentially be one that's concluded. Unsolved marks Long's first television series.