*Throughout his two-decade career in show business, Keith Robinson has consistently proven his mastery of acting, songwriting and now he’s working his way up the music charts with his latest album, “Love Episodic.”
Robinson is possibly best known for his roles in films such as “Dreamgirls,” “This Christmas,” and “Get On Up.” He also currently appears on the Bounce TV series “Saints & Sinners.”
The Southern-raised performer will next been seen on the big screen as part of the “All Eyez on Me” cast, playing Tupac Shakur’s former manager, Atron Gregory, in the biopic that arrives in theatres June 16.
EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with Keith to talk about his role in “All Eyez on Me,” and he also shares his thoughts on the mystery and conspiracy surrounding the murders of Tupac and Biggie.
OTHER NEWS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Annie Ilonzeh: ‘All Eyez On Me’ Actress Talks TuPac’s Legacy & Playing Kidada Jones [EUR Exclusive]
Talk about some of the conversations you had, or topics you explored with Pac’s manager or family members and friends, which helped you transform into this character and fully occupy his headspace.
Keith: The producers came to me about playing the role cause I had never really heard of the guy before the movie.They described him as being kind of the zen of the situation and kind of the voice of reason, which you really never saw from the outside looking in. It always looked like Tupac was on ten and everything around him was super heightened. This is kind of his voice of reason. The guy who helped usher him into show business — introducing him to Digital Underground. And then I actually did talk to Atron himself, particularly when I got towards the end of my filming, My last scene with TuPac, I was kinda wondering what the demeanor was and the energy was between him and Pac when they were about to part ways and Pac made the decision to move to Death Row. I was just interested in if it was an amicable conversation or was it toxic. What was the vibe? They always had an understanding and he was one of the unique people in Pac’s life at that time.
Did you have to do anything unique or unusual to prepare for the role?
Keith: I think it was unique in that the person I was playing was still walking around and living. I think trying to play a person who’s still functioning and still moving around is kinda unique because you wanna still be creative and bring your imagination to it but you have to be in a certain amount of grounded reality because you are talking about somebody that is living.
Did you discover anything surprising about Pac and his artistry while you were preparing for this project?
Keith: Well, I know a lot about Tupac but one of the most interesting things to me was his relationship with this guy Atron Gregory. Because you never really pictured anyone around Pac who was able to communicate with him and make decisions and he really trusted their word. He was kind of a confidant in the middle of all the madness. So I thought that was probably the most interesting thing that kinda resonated with me.
Did you get an opportunity to speak with Afeni Shakur before she passed?
Keith: I met TuPac’s mom over 20 years ago in Atlanta when Pac was incarcerated at Rikers, of course with no idea that I would one day be in a movie about his life. But I did meet his mom years ago, and his sister, which was kind of an innate connection. Everybody affiliated with the film had some type of extenuating connections so that was a great experience for me, just being able to be around her when she was alive and see her in her energy and kind of at a very stressful time when Pac was locked up. So it was a pretty crazy time — this was like, in the mid 90’s.
Do you know if Pac’s manager, or those close to him, believe there’s a connection to the murders of Pac and Biggie?
Keith: No. I didn’t get that deep into it with management because the only thing he could really help me on was speaking about Pac when he was alive, so we never really got that deep into the conspiracy. Both cases are still unsolved, and kinda happened in the same amount of space and time. So, could there be a connection? Absolutely. Whether they prove it one day, who knows. It is a lot of mystery and there’s so many documentaries and specials and things coming out with different versions of what really happened and why.
What do you think fans might be surprised to learn about Tupac through this film?
Keith: I think maybe people will takeaway that rap music, hip-hop music for Tupac was just a backdrop. He was much bigger than his music. That was just a way of communicating what his mission was as a revolutionary, as someone who was summoned to speak out for those who couldn’t speak out for themselves. His parents’ Black Panther affiliation and how literary he was, as far as his poetry and how articulate he was as far as being a great orator — a great communicator and really, music was just one of the many ways that he was put on earth to communicate that to us. I think when we explore those sides of him and his origins, the audience will be shocked at how deep it runs.
How will this production add to Pac’s legacy?
Keith: Well, as meticulous as we did with filming, it’ll still be a broad stroke of Tupac’s life from start to finish, as far as when he was introduced to us as an artist. You hear about different things from his time — being in school in Baltimore, him and his mom going through some rough times but this is the first time you’re actually able to see the story connected. I think it’s the first in probably a few more so that in itself makes it special. This is the first big screen adaptation of Tupac’s career. So I think it’ll be around for a long time.
Lastly, you dropped your delightfully resonating new album “Love Episodic” in March. How does the human experience influence the mood and themes of your music?
Keith: That’s what my music is all about. It’s called the ‘Love Episodic’ because I call it the anatomy of a relationship. Just about the highs and lows of being in love with somebody, out of love and what we go through in the in-between. And every song was inspired by something that I felt or I’m feeling or someone close to me goes through. So I kinda wanted to get that feeling when you listen to it-it takes you on an episode of love from opening to climate to resolve. Human emotions definitely influence all of my music and this album is kind of a jambalaya put into a 10-song story. Hopefully it’s the first of many.
Keith Robinson’s “Love Episodic” is available now on iTunes, and catch him in “All Eyez on Me” when the film opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, June 16.