Dominic L. Santana [Interview]

You all are going to LOVE today’s guest, I guarantee it. Everyone should. And for me personally, it represents yet another milestone in my own life. Today’s interviewee is a brilliant actor who has been working steadily for long while and has also added screenwriter to his credits. His name is Dominic L. Santana, and he is a hell of a great guy. But, how does this link up as a milestone for me personally? Well, Santana has been pinned to portray a legendary figure in a film coming this summer that I am so damn excited for, I can hardly contain it. In fact, I really haven’t, we actually talked about it two days ago with our amazing interview with actor Rayan Lawrence. Be sure to check that out as well.

The biopic All Eyez On Me follows the life and untimely death of the legendary Tupac Shakur, a man who I idolized to a HUGE extent as a youth, and still consider one of the greatest artists of our time that was taken from us far too early. 21 years after Pac was taken from us, they are finally releasing a full on dramatization that looks to be incredible. One of the reasons it is poised to be amazing is the casting of Dominic L. Santana as the legendary mogul, Suge Knight. Suge and Death Row Records play a HUGE part in the legacy that is Tupac Shakur, and they simply could not have cast a better person to tackle this dark and legendary figure. This is going to be great folks!

So, we were very excited that Dominic was willing to talk to us a bit about his journey to Suge. Where did Mr. Santana come from, and what has led him to be the man he is today? With some beautiful responses, we are going to surely find out! We are very honored to have him join the TWS ranks, and honored he was willing to speak with us. So please enjoy some great words with the amazing Dominic L. Santana!

Check out what he has to say, and then go check out All Eyez On Me in theaters TODAY!

When did you first realize you wanted to become an actor? Was there a moment when you can remember thinking, “this is it, I’m going to do THIS”?

I took interest in acting since I was a child. My mom was always a big movie buff and because we didn’t have a lot of money she made sure we had great movie nights and occasionally a trip to movie theater which was always a big deal to us. So those memories kind gave me a fondness for film. As I got older, my interest in film grew more and more. Eventually in highschool I had a great theater arts teacher name Vivian Wade who really went out of her way to get me to take it serious. She saw something in me that I had not quite seen in myself yet. I remember her telling me I had the “It” factor. Of course I didn’t really get it then but the events after high school would land me right on the path I needed to go. My family relocated to Wilmington, NC where I discovered a booming film business. It was there that I realized my love for film could be more than just a dream. So I started pursuing it. I got my first role on a show called Dawson’s Creek. I got lucky because I was there as an extra in front of a club and it just so happened that the scene wasn’t working the way they wanted it to. They had one bouncer but felt it would flow better with a second one. They picked me from the crowd and gave me a line. That’s the first time I realized I could actually do this for a living. Of course my pay rate went way up from being an extra to actor so it became real that it wasn’t just for fun but that you can pay your bills while doing it as well. From there I got obsessed and began networking and pushing.

You had a great role in 2007’s mystery/horror film Furnace that was absolutely compelling. Can you tell us a bit about working on a film like this, featuring some of an array of characters from legendary character actor Michael Pare, to hip hop stars like Ja Rule and Paul Wall?

I actually had a great time on Furnace. It was freezing and we were in a real old prison which made it even colder. I was already a huge Ja Rule fan so just being able to spend time with him was dope. Even better he was cool as hell and I still consider him a friend to this day. Tom Sizemore is a phenomenal actor and theres a scene where we ran out of lines but Tom wanted to test my improv skils and kept going. We went on for an extra ten minutes past the script until the director finally yelled cut and everyone exploded with amazement at what they had just witnessed. A lot of that scene got cut but right after, Tom smiled ear to ear and said “you’re a great F*cking actor”. Coming from someone I saw opposite Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks etc was huge to me. I knew he had worked with the best and could see he was one of the best, so for him to tell me meant everything, It was the first time I felt it was actually confirmed that I knew what I was doing and I belonged.

Danny Trejo was also great and we had many great convos. He’s a great story teller and he has a million and he’s so wise. It was great just to sit and listen to him and his stories about life. Funny story about Michael Pare. He’s a real cool guy and we got along great. One day we had to film a fight scene. We had gone over it with the stunt coordinators but he and I hadn’t actually practiced on each other yet. So it’s time to film it and we end up delayed about an hour. So finally a producer comes to my trailer and he informs me that the hold up is Mike is super leery about doing the scene. We are about the same height but he’s more model build and I’m more NFL build. He never heard of me before so he didn’t really know how professional I was or wasn’t. So he was worried that I may hit him for real and was refusing to do the scene. So I laughed when they told and I asked where he was at. They told me and I immediately went to him. I told him theres no cause for him to be worried, I’m a professional and would never hit him. I took him over to the stunt coordinator and we practiced the fight. Not only did we get it together but it actually turned in to a more violent and more believable fight scene. Right after we finished filming it he looked at me breathing hard and said “You’re a real f*cking professional!” and shook my hand and we laughed. It was a great bonding moment and neither of us got injured. The scene looked great.

You made your screenwriting debut with 2015’s Mr. Right, which you also starred in. What inspired you to write this story? Was it at all from personal experience, or just something you felt you needed to tell? Or both?

I actually wrote that film to produce with a few industry friends of mine. It was the first script I was able to write to completion. Before then I really didn’t have the patience. I didn’t plan to actually write it but the writers I had met with just weren’t getting what I was trying to bring to screen so I ended up studying a few months and writing it myself. Glad I did. Over time things kind of fell apart but I didn’t want to waste such a good story so I worked my connections to find a buyer. Fortunately I got it sold and turned it over. They’re the ones who actually asked me to play one of the smaller roles in it. Wasn’t my plan. I was fortunate. I actually pulled a lot from my imagination and then some from actual experiences, either my own or others I had witnessed or heard about. I’m truly a student of life and people so I find inspiration for stories all around. Another big part of the film I focused on was showing African Americans dealing with life issues but not only in the “hood” or being ratchet. I wanted people to see there are intelligent, educated, well to do black people who have interesting and relatable stories. It’s not always just about “hood” love or criminal stories. Plenty of blacks live in middle and upper class. We’re seen one dimensional far too much and I wanted to seize that opportunity to show us a different way while still being very entertaining.

 

To add to your variety, you have also been working in the world of music as well releasing your own albums. What made you want to join this world as well as the world of acting?

Well music was my first passion. I’ve done it for years and have several close calls with major labels but I’m one of the artist who wouldn’t just bend over and make nothing but poison to funnel into our community. More than once I was made to choose “our way or no way”. I always refused to let some guys in suits who know nothing about the minority community use me to further destroy it. I’m not really a conscious rapper like Common or Talib Kweli but I focus on making hits people love but infusing a little mental medicine in the songs. Apparently labels don’t like you encouraging people to be better and want more. Anyway, I always thought music would open the door for me to do film but film just kind of shot past my music career. With film I have a lot more control. I work with different companies all the time. Some are great and some not so great but I’m contracted with them for more than a year so I can move on. With a label deal you’re subject to their agenda for years. I’ve seen some sell their soul or sell out their community to be here today and gone tomorrow. But I could never shake the idea of having to explain my music they wanted me to make 30 years later if someone asked me why I helped destroy our community and what example I set for the next generations. I realized early on music is powerful. It’s into someone’s soul and can alter how they perceive life or situations. So I didn’t want to be the cause of feeding negative energy to the masses and I paid the price for it. I don’t regret it though.

You were pinned to portray the legendary Suge Knight in the biopic All Eyes On Me about the final years of the late Tupac Shakur. Suge is obviously a crucial role in this period. So what can you tell us about this project? And how did you become drawn to this role?

Well the film actually covers Tupac’s life and how he became the man we all know and love today. As a huge fan already, I was just fortunate to be submitted for the role of Suge Knight and 4 auditions later getting the role. I had to fight for it and I won. I always took interest in Suge Knight and what he accomplished with Death Row. I always felt there was way more to him then just what the media portrayed. So I was excited to explore on film the different sides of Suge. Fortunate to have a great director and some great producers.

What is, for you personally, that ONE shining role that you are desperately yearning to portray? If you were given free range with any sort of character, void of all financial restrictions and what not, what would be your dream project?

Honestly it’s on the table to play Suge Knight in a story thats focused on him and the inception of Death Row. It’s not set in stone yet but that’s the role I think I could really create a film legacy from. Our size and look are as close as I could get to portraying someone real and his story is just amazing and wild. It gets no better than that. I got a lot of camera time but the All Eyez On Me story is focused on Tupac and everything from his view which is also rollercoaster film that will be a classic. I think if I could continue on once more as Suge and finish what I started in AEOM it would be epic.

So, what does the future hold for you? Anything to plug to our readers?

Well I’m still writing and putting a lot of attention into producing some more of my own ideas as well as looking at different projects coming my way for acting. Also I still love music so we’re dropping a free album next month that we’ve been holding forever and then preparing to record a new one. I’m also producing with a great friend and filmmaker a tv show that looks like it will land a home on network in the next few months. So a lot of exciting things and I’m trying to do it all.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Aside from my son, just yesterday they dropped the full length AEOM trailer which featured me more than the others and that made me smile ear to ear. Nothing like saying I’m gonna be a star one and then seeing tangible evidence that you were right. It’s not all about being a star but what it represents in all your years of work and efforts. As well as what means to your child and family’s future.


Check out the trailer for the fore mentioned All Eyez On Me featuring our new friend Dominic Santana:

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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