Larenz Tate Goes In-Depth About Playing Menace II Society’s O-Dog & Other Lasting Roles (Video)
Over the years, Larenz Tate has embodied some of the most beloved roles in Black Cinema. Love Jones‘ Darius Lovehall, Dead Presidents‘ Anthony Curtis and Frankie Lymon in Why Do Fools Fall In Love are just a few. However, perhaps Tate’s most enduring role is that of O-Dog from Menace II Society. While promoting his new TV series, NBC’s Game Of Silence, which premieres Tuesday April 1, Tate stopped by The Breakfast Club and spoke in-depth about many of his most memorable character portrayals.
In discussing O-Dog, Tate detailed his background prior to taking on the role. “A lot of people didn’t know I was doing television before,” he said. “I started out as sort of a child actor, so when I got an opportunity to play that role, I just wanted to separate myself from things that people probably had seen. I did a show with the late Red Foxx and Della Reese, called The Royal Family, so I had this kind of cookie-cutter look and I wanted to get away from that completely,” he continued. After pointing out that he was from the West side of Chicago and had spent some time in Los Angeles before the film, he added “I wanted to just make it as authentic as I possibly could, based off the things that I had seen.”
Moments later, Tate details his interactions with Tupac, who was attached to the film before an infamous altercation with its directors, Allen and Albert Hughes. When DJ Envy suggests that Tupac was originally selected to play O-Dog, Tate responds “Tupac was casted in the role of the Muslim, Sharif. Tupac used to do a lot of music videos with the Hughes brothers. They were there for him when he broke away from Digital Underground on his own, and they started directing a lot of his music videos, so when they casted him they were friends.” While, at the time, Tupac, as an actor, was best known for his role as the sociopathic Bishop from the film Juice, Tate reminds that, in real life, he shared similarities with the “Sharif” character. “Pac was like intellectually sound. He was on another level, and [the Hughes brothers were] like ‘this is perfect for Pac,’ and he actually came to a couple rehearsals. It was myself, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tyrin Turner and Pac. We have a couple sessions of rehearsal, but Pac had some issues with the script. At some point, he and the Hughes brothers got into a real tiff. At one of the rehearsals, they was like ‘yo, step into my office.’ He stepped up. He jumped up, went in there and they kind of had a bunch of words and then they came out and it seemed like it was OK.” History shows that it was not, as Tupac would later attack the brothers and be convicted of assault, serving 15 days in jail.
In later parts of the interview, Tate talks extensively about Love Jones, Why Do Fools Fall In Love and Game Of Silence, as well as challenges he’s faced with people expecting him to be more like his characters, in real life. The entire conversation is well worth the time.