USA’s new true crime series, Unsolved, attempts to solve the decades-old murders of two of pop culture’s biggest figures: Tupac and Biggie Smalls. In the process, the cast and creators told The Hollywood Reporter at the show’s Los Angeles premiere that not only did they come up with what they believe actually happened, they also have their own theories as to why those crimes are still unsolved 20 years later.
“I think there’s this presumption that, ‘Well, it can’t be that satisfying of a show because it’s unsolved,’ and I really don’t think that’s the case,” creator Kyle Long told THR. “I really think we lay it all out there in a way that’s interesting. We definitely show what conclusions some police officers came to and the audience will have to make up their mind.”
Executive producer Anthony Hemingway, who directed the majority of the ten-episode series, went even further: “The show’s themes deal with perception and how perception challenges your best judgment, and just reminds us that we need to stop and think about our actions. By watching the show unfold, there is so much clarity that comes and new information that we just had no idea [about]. … It’ll show you the hard work that went into solving this case. You’ll really get to see why it’s unsolved, because we do solve it.”
Tupac Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in late 1996, and Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles in early 1997.
Unsolved lays out several reasons why the crimes remain unsolved, how they were linked and who could have committed them. But the actors have several of their own theories as to why the killers were never arrested.
“I think it’s still officially unsolved because 20 years ago, people didn’t care enough that two young black men were killed and it was swept under the rug for a bit,” says star Jimmi Simpson, who plays Russell Poole, the LAPD detective tasked with finding Biggie’s killer. “Then by the time it got into the hands of someone who was desperate to solve it, LAPD was giving him a hard time. Cut to 15 years later, half of the essential witnesses are dead and now we’ve missed our opportunity to legally solve it because of a mishandling, in my opinion, in the justice system.”
Josh Duhamel, who plays Detective Greg Kading, the man tasked by the LAPD to solve the same crime a decade later, said he thinks there are several reasons why the crimes are still unsolved — and will remain that way.
“There’s so much conflicting testimony. It would cost a tremendous amount of money. The guys who did it are dead. And it’s just one of those things that would just take away too many resources, I think,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because I feel like these families deserve justice. But aside from some kind of a deathbed confession, I don’t know if it’ll ever be solved.”
And the fact that many of the key witnesses and suspects are not alive doesn’t exactly help matters.
“I think these crimes are unsolved because a lot of people are scared to speak up and try to get them solved,” said Marcc Rose, who plays Tupac. “Aside from that, I feel a lot of people around that time who testified are no longer alive or maybe in prison. So it’s really, really hard to try to put the pieces together.”
Rose played the famous rapper briefly in the film Straight Outta Compton, but tackled the role again, this time for the entire series.
“In Compton, my job was to show him in the studio, how he felt with his music, his excitement, what went down between him and Dre, but I was so blessed with Unsolved. We got 10 episodes. So I get to show peel the layers back of who he was. You get to see the humanity between this guy. He’s a human being. He’s a brother. He’s a son. You get to see the humanity, and the friendship between him and Biggie.”
After walking the red carpet, the cast and crew gathered in VIP booths inside Hollywood’s Avalon nightclub for a screening of the first episode. Following the screening, the club turned into a full concert venue as the screen lifted up to reveal a full band, and Wavyy Jonez, who plays Biggie in the series, performed a short set.
The afterparty-turned-concert continued with long sets from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony — a group that worked with both Tupac and Biggie, and paid tribute to both men in their set — and Busta Rhymes.
Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. premieres Feb. 27 on USA Network.