The executive producers and cast of the new USA Network series “Unsolved” talked about the show’s depiction of the Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur’s murder cases, and how racial injustice is still present today.
The 10-episode true crime anthology is shown through the point-of-view of the officers who were both passionate and disinterested about the case. At the Hollywood premiere,Jimmi Simpson, who plays detective Russell Poole, explained what excited him about the project.
“These two young black geniuses were swept under the rug just 20 years ago,” he said. “I was obsessed with little flaws in the justice system that my character noticed and became obsessively passionate about.”
These flaws are key issues that the creator and executive producers wanted to highlight in the series.
“Racial tensions still exist today as we all know,” executive producer Mark Taylor said. “They’re becoming a little more apparent, in terms of people recognizing these are not problems of the past. These are problems we’re still dealing with today.”
Simpson agreed. “I think that 20 years ago we were sweeping it under the rug, and now we have a commander-in-chief screaming racist epithets from every medium he can find,” he said. “It shows we haven’t moved far enough. It’s a call to action.” Simpson also added that he hopes viewers recognize how the United States judicial system largely affects African Americans.
Creator and executive producer Kyle Long said one of the main messages in the show is that Biggie and Tupac deserve justice. Long said, “I really hope young kids see this and they really say, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy speaks to us today.’ He really did. You watch interviews of Tupac, especially. It’s like it could be yesterday.”
“Unsolved” star Josh Duhamel said as a child, he grew up in North Dakota connecting with Biggie’s music. “After being so close to this for as long as we were, I have so much more respect for what they were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time,” Duhamel said, adding that he hopes the multiple perspectives show that there are both good and bad cops.
Marcc Rose, who undeniably resembles his character, Tupac Shakur, said he enjoyed learning that there were detectives trying to solve the case. Rose also commented on remarks in the show that referred to Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls as “just a rapper with a microphone.”
“I take offense to that as a young African American because I know that these guys are way more than that,” Rose said. “I am those guys; these guys are me.”
The “Unsolved” season premiere airs on Feb. 27.
After keeping viewers in suspense for a full week, episode 2 of Unsolved, titled "Nobody Talks," opens with one of hip-hop’s most celebrated ceremonies; a rapper’s label chaining day. Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana) enters the frame and places a diamond encrusted Death Row Records chain over the neck of a presumably unknown rapper. Suge then menacingly states that Death Row is a way of life, and all altercations against the label are to be handled using the deadly “blood in, blood out” code. The code is almost put to the test immediately afterwards with that same rapper getting into a clash of colors with rival Crips. This introduction of gang affiliations adds yet another layer of uncertainty to the unraveling case.
The original 1997 investigation duo, detective Poole and detective Miller confirm that a trip to Las Vegas is in order, as they’ve come to realize the connection between Biggie and Tupac’s murders is overwhelmingly clear and analyzing the Tupac’s murder case is unquestionably worthwhile. Fast forward to the reopened investigation of 2006, and assigned pointman Greg Kading has assembled a team of varying justice department officers who have boiled Biggie’s death down to three logical possibilities. First was that he was killed by Suge Knight and the Bloods in retaliation for Tupac’s murder, second was that Suge worked alongside the LAPD to get rid of Biggie and third was that a handful of Southside Crips did the deed over Biggie’s unpaid debts. They opt to start digging into the Southside Crips and see where it leads.
The most powerful part of the episode takes place during a flashback to 1996 when both Tupac and Biggie were still alive, but not on the greatest of terms. While idling outside of a Fatburger, two teenage fans run up to Tupac in a flurry of fandemonium. Tupac, who was startled at first, engages with the teen boys in the way any fan would want their hero to interact with them. One of the boys even yells out “West Side, Fuck Biggie!” as he departs. The look on Pac’s face says more than 1000 words. With hesitation in his eyes but pride written all over his face, Pac yells back “Hell yeah”! The mood of the episode quickly becomes much more hostile.
The 2006 investigation uses Suge’s phone records to track down Scott Shephard (Dorian Missick) and Ernest Anderson (Avery Kidd Waddell) who were allegedly driving the diversion car that cut in front of Biggie’s vehicle. Both individuals get grilled by Kading and his team but it’s Poole’s 1997 questioning session with Tupac’s friend and security personnel Frank Alexander (Pooch Hall). When Poole probes Frank about the case, he becomes overcome with emotion and delves right into a play-by-play of the night Tupac was killed.
The vivid recounting of that fateful night leaves not only detective Poole with more questions than answers, but the viewers as well.