Bucs' DeSean Jackson is producer of new Tupac Shakur movie 'All Eyez on Me' (w/ video)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson takes questions from the media during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson takes questions from the media during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times
Published June 15, 2017

TAMPA — All eyes will be on DeSean Jackson when he makes his regular-season debut with the Bucs. Given his speed and production as a receiver, well, get your popcorn ready.

But Wednesday, Jackson, a free-agent signing this offseason, turned his thoughts to another premiere. He is a producer of All Eyez on Me, a biopic of hip-hop artist, rapper, poet, actor and activist Tupac Shakur that opens in 2,450 theaters in North America on Friday.

Titled after Shakur's 1996 fourth studio album, the film stars Demetrius Shipp Jr., as Shakur, who was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in September 1996. The killing remains unsolved.

Friday would have been Shakur's 46th birthday.

The movie's co-stars include Kat Graham, Lauren Cohan, Hill Harper and Danai Gurira.

Jackson is an investor and partner in the movie with longtime friend and business partner L.T. Hutton, one of the film's producers who owns Program Pictures, a movie company working in conjunction with Morgan Creek Pictures.

Jackson, 30, was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the Crenshaw neighborhood before attending Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Many of Shakur's songs revolve around the violence and struggle of growing up in inner cities with racism and other obstacles that Jackson and so many others identify with.

"For me, it was All Eyez on Me, (the album) Better Dayz — I still to this day listen to all of Tupac's music," Jackson said. "It still influences me, and it keeps me thinking you've got to keep going out there and bettering yourself day in and day out.

"I've known (Hutton) for about eight years. He's been trying to do this movie for about 10 years. So people said he wasn't going to be able to do it, and he's finally done it, so the people who backstabbed him and said he wasn't going to do it are now trying to be his best friend. You know how it works."

IN THEATERS THIS WEEKEND: Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall previews the new releases.

Jackson is an intriguing player with a lot of layers. Filmmaking is something with which he is familiar. From the time he was in Pop Warner football until he was named to his first Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Eagles in the 2008 season, Jackson's brother Byron documented it all on videotape. Jackson's father, Bill, was diagnosed with cancer during the Eagles' playoff run in 2009 and died that May.

In 2009, Jackson and his brother released a documentary film, DeSean Jackson, the Making of a Father's Dream.

The Shakur biopic is one Jackson believes will be informative and entertaining.

"There's a lot of people interested in his story," Jackson said. "The best thing I can say about that is there's a lot of things about Tupac that people didn't know and when they go see that movie, they'll have a different view of him.

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"He was very smart. He had a different hustle to him. People kind of thought he was just in the industry making music. But he actually viewed things differently. He just wanted to empower the impoverished and people who come from nothing. He witnessed that at an early age with his mom and not really having a father in his life. Being the only son, having a sister, he had to be like the man of the house. He overcame a lot, and his music speaks to that."

Shakur became involved in well-documented conflicts with other rappers, producers and members of record labels, most notably the Notorious B.I.G and Bad Boy Records. Critics have complained that the film — narrated by Shakur from prison, where he was serving time for a sexual assault conviction — glosses over what he was serving time for.

There always will be a debate whether Shakur deserves to be considered a leader in the African-American community. But he was for many, including Jackson.

"(The movie has) been a great experience for me," Jackson said. "The movie has had a lot of marketing. It's been everywhere. TV. Instagram. Snapchat. We're excited.

"There's been a lot of hard work put into that. It's an exciting time, and hopefully we break the box office. That would be good for everybody."

The film is projected to earn $17 million to $20 million in its opening weekend.

Jackson said investing in and producing movies is something he plans to continue to pursue after his football career.

Contact Rick Stroud at Follow @NFLStroud.