Filming “Notorious” created an eternal bond for the cast as they brought a vital chapter of hip-hop’s story to the big screen.
Jamal Woolard makes his acting debut as Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace in “Notorious.”
“Every scene I did I felt I channeled him,” Woolard says.
“Notorious” will be in theaters January 16th.
Voletta Wallace says she knew instantly Jamal was meant to play her son on the big screen and told the director, “that’s my son there.”
Jamal says it wasn’t until he gained weight after high school that the Biggie comparisons began.
The duo developed a close bond with the many similarities between Jamal and Biggie.
“There were days I had goose bumps just watching him,” Voletta Wallace tells ESSENCE.com.
Wallace saw a side of her son she never knew in the film she produced.
“I gained strength from the film,” she says. “I learned acceptance after seeing parts of the film and being disappointed and shocked.”
Woolard says he sensed the presence of Biggie Smalls throughout filming.
“I felt him in LA, when I was in the same spot exactly [where Biggie was shot.]" he says. “It was too real.”
Actor Derek Luke stars as Sean “Puffy” Combs in the film. He spent a week with Combs’s mother to prepare for the role.
Like his onscreen persona Sean Combs, Derek is excited to design his own clothing line.
Luke made sure the many sides of Sean Combs were presented.
“I wanted to break down the anatomy of who Puffy was,” he says. “Our generation has so much power and I wanted to show geniuses are not born, they’re made. People smile or laugh at the [shiny suits], but they don’t know it was pre-thought out."
Naturi Naughton makes her acting debut as spitfire sex goddess and rapper Lil’ Kim.
The role was a dream for former 3LW member Naturi, as she brought to life a side of Kim not often seen.
“She’s not just Lil’ Kim. She’s Kimberly Jones,” Naughton tells ESSENCE.com. “She has a human side and I wanted to make sure I brought that human side to life. I wanted to show I could bring out her vulnerability.”
Antonique has a newfound respect and admiration for Faith Evans.
“The truth was she had more money than him at the beginning, so the rumor that she married him for money doesn’t even make sense,” Smith says. “They really loved each other. She fell in love with him because he was charming and funny, and had an innocence. I’m attracted to that too so I could see what she saw in him.”
Newcomer Antonique Smith has much in common with her character Faith Evans, including their New Jersey upbringings and love for singing.
Naturi says the role of Lil Kim was a great way for fans to see she is all grown up.
“Pac was a caged bird screaming for somebody to listen and nobody listened,” Anthony Mackie says of his favorite rapper.
Tupac’s love for Biggie quickly faded after he was shot in New York.
“He was monumentally flawed,” Anthony says of Tupac. “At the same time he had a vision and goal for the hood that people nowadays don’t have.”
Anthony says playing a complicated character like Tupac requires special care.
“It’s easy to get him wrong and that was a fear of mine. You get Pac wrong and you’ll never live it down. I can’t go to ESSENCE fest,” he says with a laugh.
Anthony Mackie stars as Tupac Shakur in the film. The actor previously portrayed Pac in a stage play.