The entertainment world is still reeling from the tragic death of rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle. On Sunday, March 31, the 33-year-old Los Angeles native, born Ermias Asghedom, was shot six times outside of his Marathon Clothing Company in Hyde Park and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
In the hours and days that followed, an outpouring of shock and condolences dominated social media as fans and peers grieved. With the news still fresh, BET.com spoke with cast members and the director of the HBO film Native Son, a modern-day adaptation of the novel by Richard Wright about a young Black man in Chicago who accidentally kills the daughter of his employer. The film is the feature-length directorial debut of visual artist Rashid Johnson and stars Ashton Sanders (Moonlight, Equalizer 2) and Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk).
“I grew up in L.A. I spent a lot of my time in Leimert Park on Slauson Ave,” says Sanders, who plays Bigger Thomas. “Those are familiar streets. Nipsey Hussle was a pillar for L.A. [and] for the Black community there, and we really lost a pivotal driving force to our society and it just doesn’t add up.”
Kiki Layne, who plays Bigger’s girlfriend Bessie, was equally moved by Hussle’s death and offered her own condolences.
“I admired him and respected him because you could see that it was bigger than the music, bigger than the fame. He was really about using his platform to really help people. So I think that’s what hurt me the most about this loss. You had someone who was really trying to give back and look out for people and use his art in this really beautiful way and to just have that…yeah…”
“He was such a profoundly positive brother,” says Johnson. “His messages around starting businesses, contributing to the community and putting his money in good places… When you lose someone like that, who had such positive messaging, it really has a profound effect on all of us, and I’m just really sad and disappointed to hear. He’ll be missed.”
Keep checking back to BET.com for more coverage of Native Son and developments in the murder of Nipsey Hussle.