“Playing her (Angie Martinez) was like a dream.”
–Lian Toni Amado
The hip-hop community is buzzing about the release of the long-fabled Tupac biopic, All Eyes On Me. Like most of the world, we’ve been following the movie’s progress — and actual existence — through scattered Instagram pics that showed signs of, if nothing else, fantastic casting. One confirmed actress I found particularly exciting was the gorgeous Lian Toni Amado, who announced to the world via Instagram that she’d been cast in as the role of “The Voice Of NYC,” Angie Martinez. Many may, or may not, be aware of her infamous interview with Pac at the height of the East/West drama; however, only 12 minutes was ever released, with the remaining hour and forty-eight minutes staying in the vault. The casting of Lian was not only incredibly well-done, but it signified the overall care, and level of detail that the film had in store for us.
Last week’s release of an official theatrical trailer has me more excited than ever to see the movie.
Lian, while busy packing for a trip to Miami, was kind enough to chat with me about her time on set, how she landed the role, and more. Check out the interview below.
How did you get into acting?
I’ve only been doing it seriously for a couple of years. I started out just doing for fun. I had done a music video for an international artist from Australia and – long story short – I ended up getting an acting coach, and she helped set me in the right direction. This acting coach trains a lot of great music artists who convert into acting. After that, I took it seriously. I started to think I could do this as a real job.
Up onto this point, everything I worked on has been film and a lot of it has been independent; like, I’ve had a film in Cannes, so I got to go to France for that. This is definitely like my biggest thing so far.
We dug up the video she mentioned, which featured Ja Rule. She was one of the twins sitting with Ja on the couch.
How did you originally audition for the role?
It’s funny; I was going through something [personally] and had just stepped away from acting for like a month at that point. And two of my actor friends — at different times — had sent me the breakdown for the role and they’re like, “You should audition for Angie.” But I was just like, “No, I’m working. I am good right now.” And then once my agent had sent it to me, I kind felt like I had to try. She sent it to me, and I put my (audition) on tape — she sent it to me like 1:00 pm on a Friday night, and I was supposed to have it in by like 3:00 pm. So, I only had a few hours to work on it. Saturday morning, my agent called me and asked if I could be in Atlanta by Monday for a callback. After the call back I didn’t hear anything for almost two months.
I went into the callback and auditioned for Carl Franklin, who was the second director that was on board. The next day a press release comes out that he had dropped out of the film. So I was like, “Well, there goes my audition.” I felt like I came to Atlanta for nothing.
So this was like maybe mid-November, it was around Thanksgiving. It was almost the middle of January when I got the call from the office that I was their first option and asking if I would take the part.
So, what was the experience like?
I loved playing her. I have a really, really, really big passion for music; if I could sing, I would have been a singer. When I was younger, I interned at Def Jam as well as at some other big music companies. I’m really into music. So any project that involves music and film is like a dream. Like, Selena. That type of movie. When I got the part, I remember thinking “This is what JLo felt like when she booked Selena.”
Usually, anytime I book anything, or I’m working on stuff, it’s always stressful. But I didn’t feel like that with this character; I learned so much. I played young Angie, so I played her back in the 90s when the whole East Coast/West Coast thing was going on. So I was young at that point, I didn’t know how serious it was. So, while doing my research, there was a lot of things that I learned that I didn’t even know happened. I didn’t know about the drama that happened at the Source Awards in ’95.
It felt right. I just remember sitting on set and then getting into the wardrobe; it just…felt really good. Good to play her. Playing her was like a dream.
Did you connect with her or did you talk to her before you like played the role?
Not before. She didn’t know that she was in the film. I had sent her flowers just to introduce myself a couple of months ago, because I was like talking to a friend and it’s like, “It’s weird, you’re playing somebody who’s alive — maybe you should like to introduce yourself.” So just sent her flowers to introduce myself, and she went on the air and talked about how she didn’t even know that she was in the film. But, she’s setting up an interview, cause she was all like, “I want to know who you are, what’s happening, and what I’m doing in the film.” She has no idea. So I didn’t meet her yet, but I will soon.
Have you seen any cuts of the film yet?
I saw some when I was there. It was cool cause when I was on set, one of Pac’s uncles was there. They were playing some of the scenes from the Black Panthers movement. I didn’t know much about the whole movement, so I had to do my homework. It was strong, though. Danai Gurira –the actress playing Afeni Shakur was on set the same time as me. I was watching the scenes that she was in, and they looked amazing.
I don’t want to give too much away. Yeah, I got to see some of the stuff on set, and it all was really good. Even seeing the actors on set dressed as who they are, it was real.
The more you start seeing pictures, and even when I saw you in costume on Instagram, it hints at how deep into the story (the film) gets, which is exciting!
They show everything. A lot of (the film)has to do with his life, his upbringing — so it’s not just his music career. My part is towards the end of the movie, once he was full blown, but I felt the same way. Angie is a legend herself; she’s classic. She reminds me of that era — and on top of that — she has all but 12 minutes of her (epic) interview with Pac that she never released. So she’s a really big part of the story. I feel like she might know more about Pac and anybody. And I know her book just came out, and she put some stuff out about the interview that she has yet to release. He put out so much out to her. So yeah, I feel the same way. It’s cool. It just adds a classic piece of history to have her in it.
The hope is that it does for Pac what Straight Out of Compton did for NWA, which was put a whole new generation onto his legacy.
I agree. I feel like even when I watched Straight Out of Compton, being from the East Coast, I didn’t know all the West Coast stuff, so I learned a lot watching that film.
I’m assuming every Tupac album will be number one on iTunes after the film’s release. So, what’s next for you?
I’m working on a play, but I can’t say a lot about it. But I’m working on a play that’s going to happen sometime in late 2017, and it has to do with the hip-hop culture. But, it’s just in the beginning stages. Besides that, just staying in the same hustle that I was in before — just auditioning. After I had got home (from doing All Eyes On Me), I was like on a high for like a month, and then I was like, “Okay, I have to get back to where I was at right before all of this.” So we’re just grinding. I just came back; I was in LA for pilot season. I’m just in the same hustle as before, ready for whatever is next.