It’s hard for Rich Garcia, of Jersey City, to walk down the street or go to a club without people stopping him and asking for a photograph.
“All the people that stop us, if I got a penny for each one, I’d be a billionaire,” his wife Mary Ibrahim said.
The Jersey City couple said people often do double takes when they see Garcia’s shaved head, white bandanna and tattoos. He’s a spitting image of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
Garcia, 34, is hoping the resemblance and his love of Shakur will land him a job starring as the rapper in a biopic being directed by Antoine Fuqua, who directed “Training Day” and “Brooklyn’s Finest.”
Garcia said people told him to audition to play Shakur in “Notorious,” the 2009 biopic of rapper Biggie Smalls. But Garcia said he hoped a movie about Shakur would come out and wanted a chance to audition.
Garcia may be in luck. The director wants to discover someone new.
“I want to go to the streets and find him anywhere he might be in the world,” Fuqua told British Entertainment website Digital Spy.
Hot 97 radio hosts announced this week that Fuqua was looking for an unknown person to play Shakur in the film and within minutes, Garcia was being approached by people in Jersey City who told him he had to try out.
Garcia said he plans to attend the New York City auditions for the film. His friend Tyqawn Headen, who is about to open Outbox Media in Bayonne, has been taking portfolio photographs and plans to shoot some video of Garcia.
“This is my time to do it,” Garcia said. “If Fuqua would meet up with me and give me a few lines, maybe he’ll like my stuff.”
Garcia is known around Jersey City as the “Pathmark Tupac,” because he works part-time at the grocery store on Grand Street. His fan page on the social media website Facebook has gained over 2,000 followers since it went up in February.
He’s met Shakur’s father Bill Garland, who lives in New Jersey and went to Pathmark to see his son’s look-alike, and Shakur's sister Takerra Allen, who wrote a book and held a signing in Jersey City last year.
He is traveling to Georgia this month for the Tupac Shakur Birthday Benefit Concert in hopes of meeting the musician’s mother. Shakur and Garcia were both born on June 16, just four years apart.
While Garcia isn’t black — he’s Puerto Rican — he said he could still play the part.
“Al Pacino was not Cuban and he made Scarface the biggest movie on the planet,” he argues.
Garcia, a long-time fan, has naturally curly hair. When a friend suggested he looked like Shakur in high school and should shave his head, he did and never stopped.
“I used to listen to Tupac before he went solo,” Garcia said. “I used to listen to Digital Underground.”
Shakur got his start as a roadie and back up dancer for the hip hop group before releasing his debut solo album, “2Pacalypse Now” in late 1991.
Garcia said Shakur’s music, about living in ghettos and experiencing violence and racism, speaks to him. Growing up in Newark, Garcia dropped out of South Orange High School. He has seven children with three different mothers and said friends are addicted to drugs and in jail.
It wasn’t until he started having children that Garcia decide to get his high school diploma and go back to school.
“I wasn’t going anywhere and I was working two or three jobs,” he said.
He went to Hudson County Community College and earned an associate’s degree. In January he graduated from New Jersey City University, where he met his wife, with a bachelor’s in science and started working as a substitute in Jersey City public schools. Garcia said he hopes to get a master’s and continue teaching.
Garcia wants to be a positive role model, showing kids that they can avoid drugs and crime.
“If you believe in yourself that’s all you need,” he said.