Tupac Shakur and Janet Jackson Promo Stills for “Poetic Justice” (1993)

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Janet Jackson landed her first acting role in the 1993 John Singleton film Poetic Justice alongside Tupac Shakur, not long after she’d signed a lucrative deal with Virgin Records.
At the time, the pop icon was married to director/songwriter René Elizondo Jr., whom she wed in 1991. While A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip was tasked with playing Jackson’s boyfriend in the film (who by the way was more than) happy to kiss her 20 times over 20 different takes), it was 2Pac who really made an impression on the 27-year-old singer.
According to Poetic Justice co-star Regina King, the chemistry between Jackson and 2Pac was palpable and simply couldn’t be ignored. King made the revelation in the Lifetime Television Network docuseries Janet Jackson.
“Having Janet and 2Pac was huge because he was one of the biggest Hip Hop stars and she was definitely the biggest pop star,” King said. “I think they were both impressed with each other, but I don’t feel like either one of them wanted to let the other know.”
Toward the end of the film, 2Pac and Jackson have to share a kiss, which perhaps appeared a bit too genuine.
“I don’t know if Janet will ever admit to it, but there was a bit of that chemistry going on,” King added. “You could cut the air in the room at times. But she was in a relationship with René, make no mistake about it.”
In a 1993 episode of The Arsenio Hall Show, 2Pac joked having Elizondo on set made him want to kiss Jackson more. But once the film wrapped, Shakur claimed Jackson ghosted him by immediately changing her phone number. Smooth B, who knew both 2Pac and Bobby Brown well, told HipHopDX in a 2020 interview she did that to Brown, too.
“It bothered me, it probably wasn’t intentional, everybody changes their number,” 2Pac said at the time. “I really thought I made a friend, I thought it was, ‘I know Janet Jackson for life’ but as soon as the movie was over it was like ‘Boop, this number has been changed,’ Tupac recalled. “It was like the day after the movie wrapped.”
And he was probably right. In a 2018 interview, Jackson looked back on her time with the late Hip Hop legend and said she “adored him so.”
“He was one way I think people saw him — and not to say that that wasn’t him, but he also had another side to him – he was fun and silly and he used to call me ‘Square’ all the time,” she said around the 7:20-minute mark. “He’d say, ‘What’s up Square?’ I guess because I’m very quiet and just sit back and watch and laugh, but there were times he was late for the set, and we were on time. We were waiting patiently and he’s back at his hotel and he’d say, ‘The longer you knock, the longer I’m going to sit in this bed.’
“Honestly, I think he’s very special or he was very special, incredibly talented and definitely an icon. I remember when he got the ‘Thug Life’ tattoo when we were doing Poetic Justice. It was over the weekend and he said, ‘Hey Square.’ I said, ‘Yeah?’ And he lifted up his shirt. I said, ‘When did you get that?’ He said, ‘Over the weekend.’ He loved it though. For me, he wasn’t a diva. So much talent and so brilliant, just so smart.”
Poetic Justice was released in the United States on July 23, 1993. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who criticized the screenplay though praised Jackson and Shakur’s performances and chemistry. It reached No. 1 in the box office its opening weekend, grossing $11,728,455. It eventually grossed a total of $27,515,786. Jackson received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song for “Again”, which also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The film has developed a cult following, especially for the chemistry between Jackson and Shakur.

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