It’s hard to fathom that it’s been over 20 years since the untimely deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. Their artistic contributions, now considered “classic” by the young whipper snappers who consume pop culture today, changed the musical landscape back when the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalries dominated a forgotten version of MTV that still focused on videos. Now, two decades after they met their fate, the hip hop icons are having the last chapter of their stories told in “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.,” a dramatized crime series airing Tuesdays on USA Network.
Brian Guest will join the “Unsolved” cast as U.S. Attorney Tim Searight starting on April 10. We recently sat down with Guest to discuss door-to-door Spielberg’ing, how he approached getting Searight right, and why he may (but probably not) have been attacked by a great white shark.
TrunkSpace: You’re currently starring in “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.,” which is the largest title ever to fit on a resume. As far as your career is concerned, is taking on the role of U.S. Attorney Tim Searight as big as the name of the series itself?
Guest: Bigger. Much Bigger. I expect Steven Spielberg to come knocking on my door any day now. That’s actually a little known fact about Spielberg… he refuses to use email and cell phones. He always knocks on doors. Always.
TrunkSpace: Joking aside, do you see this project as a possible game changer for you, particularly as it relates to dramatic acting?
Guest: Are ya sure you want to stop the jokes after that Spielberg one? That one was solid!
Acting for me is a process. I don’t think I will ever feel like I “made it.” I’m not even sure what that means, to “make it.” I’m always humbled and surprised when people want to see me for an audition, call me back, or offer me a job. I just like doing good work with good people, and it’s just nice to have others appreciate having me around to play some fun pretend for a little while.
TrunkSpace: One has to really watch the series to see how your character ties back into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, but unlike many of the names involved in those two cases, Searight’s wasn’t someone many people knew about. When you’re stepping in to play a character in a series that is based on actual people/events, do you think it makes your job easier or more difficult when there isn’t as much information available on the person you’re set to inhabit?
Guest: There wasn’t a ton of info on Tim Searight available. There was some stuff in the media about the cases he worked, but not enough to develop an understanding of the relationship he had with the detectives on the Biggie/Tupac cases. That’s where Greg Kading (producer) was so helpful. Greg was the lead on the Biggie task force, so he was invaluable to talk to regarding their relationship.
TrunkSpace: As far as performance is concerned, what was a highlight for you in terms of getting to play this particular character? Was there a scene or moment where, even in the act of doing it, you said to yourself, “Oh yeah, this is going on the reel!”?
Guest: Um, the highlight? I get to work on a show about Biggie and Tupac! That’s insane. I was big fans of both of their music. I remember when all this East Coast/West Coast stuff was going on. It was crazy! When I first moved to LA, I lived very close to the Petersen Automotive Museum. I don’t think of cars when I think of that place, I think of Biggie. And I think it’s like that for a lot of people. Also, the people that worked on “Unsolved” are the best. I’ve known Anthony Hemingway (director/producer) for a long time. I will literally act in anything that he does. Every production he is a part of is special, mostly because of his talent and kindness. The cast and crew that worked on “Unsolved” were a dream – it all was pretty much a highlight! Nothing will go on my reel, because Josh Duhamel is embarrassingly handsome and will make me look like a garbage person.
TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you were a big fan of Tupac and Biggie. Life has a strange way of bringing things full circle. Is it odd going from listening to an artist in your bedroom as a kid, to then winding up in the dramatic retelling of the circumstances surrounding their deaths many years later?
Guest: It’s surreal. The thing that really hits home though is the fact that these are real people. So many people’s lives have been affected by their tragic deaths. It’s strange to play a role on TV about something that affected so many people in a real way. I think when the stakes are that high, everyone involved raises their game to give it some sort of justice. Bokeem Woodbine, who plays Detective Daryn Dupree, actually knew Tupac! Everyone that worked on “Unsolved” was extremely invested in telling this story.
TrunkSpace: You also guested in “Narcos” as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2017. That’s an awesomely strange coincidence. It’s almost like you got promoted to full U.S. Attorney for this latest project!
Guest: I’m climbing that ladder! The criminal justice ladder, baby!
TrunkSpace: Sticking on the guesting topic for a moment, was there a character that you guested as over the course of your career that you really dug and wished you had more time to explore and see expanded upon, and if so, why?
Guest: I played Gym Dude on “Workaholics.” I mean, what was going on with that guy? What made him tick? What kept him up at night? Also, the “Workaholics” guys could have really used another guy in their group – they missed out on having Gym Dude a part of their tight knit unit.
In all seriousness, that was a super fun role that I got to play, and being on a set that fun is what I gravitate towards. I love comedy, and their humor is sort of in my sweet spot. I did get to play a role on the American version of “Torchwood” which was an amazing acting experience that I wish I had more time with. I played a character opposite Bill Pullman, who played an intense murderer who possessed supernatural powers.
TrunkSpace: You have the movie “The Oath” due up later this year, which is probably about as timely of a topic as you could get right now. Is the film heavy on the current real-life political climate that we’re all experiencing or is it handled in more of a fictional way?
Guest: All I can say is that it is definitely a satirical film with heavy political overtones. It’s dark. It’s funny. It’s from Ike Barinholtz’s mind, so ya know it’s gonna be a wild trip.
TrunkSpace: Where does your character Avery fall into things and what was fun about inhabiting him?
Guest: I play Ike’s neighbor friend. My character got to wear pajamas. If I had my way, all of my characters would always wear pajamas.
TrunkSpace: You have developed and set up projects of your own. Is that an area where you hope to expand upon your career even further? Is the “Created By” path just as exciting to you as acting?
Guest: One of the things I love about being an actor is the creative process with other people. It is such a collaboration. Creating my own projects is just another way to be able to do that. When I write, it’s just another opportunity for me to get my creative voice out into the world. I’m constantly working on a few different projects at the same time. I like that, because I can get a weird flow of ideas cooking that help elevate each individual project.
TrunkSpace: In doing research for this interview we came across an article about a man named Brian Guest who was attacked by a great white shark back in 2008. In the internet age, it seems really easy for people to be mistaken for others who share the same namesake, particularly in circumstances where employers are searching up would-be hires. Have you ever had a doppelgänger experience where you were mistaken for someone else or, had another Brian Guest infiltrate your life?
Guest: How do you know I wasn’t attacked by a shark? Maybe I was. Or maybe I was attacked by a fresh water rainbow trout. I guess you’ll never know.
I don’t think I’ve had a doppelgänger scenario. But my two-year-old daughter’s name is Ryan. So anytime I am at Starbucks now and they inevitably call out “Ryan” for my triple espresso, I don’t throw the napkin dispenser anymore. I just graciously take my drink with a smile.
“Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac & The Notorious B.I.G.” airs Tuesdays on USA.