Kat Graham has become a household name for her role on Vampire Diaries. Now the actress will be playing a very familiar face in the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me: Jada Pinkett Smith — and Will Smith's wife couldn't have been happier.
"Jada gave me her blessing, and I remember talking to her and going 'Oh my god. Oh my god. I'm talking to Jada Pinkett," Kat told HELLO! during the BUILD studio opening in NYC on Thursday. "She just gave me trust, and I think that only made me work harder."
In the film, the 27-year-old will play a young Jada, now 45, who met Tupac when they were both on their film and music career paths at Baltimore's School for the Arts in the '80s. The two remained friends until the rapper's imprisonment in 1995 ahead of his death in 1996.
Similar to Tupac paving the way for many before him, Jada has been someone Kat has looked up to for years. "She did the same thing for me," Kat admitted. "Being African-American in the industry. People like her make me fight harder, louder and stronger."
Jada's support meant everything to the Vampire Diaries star. "I mean, I just hope that I'm consistently able to contribute, even past the Tupac movie," she said. "In essence of self-ownership and power as an African American woman. If I'm able to contribute even a quarter of what she contributed to the industry, I'll be good."
The Swiss-born star may be taking on the '90s in the role, but her own music is definitely influenced by the '70s as she wants to bring a funkier energy to the world. "I'm somebody who listens to a lot of funk, a lot of James Brown, and I want to be somebody who contributes all that energy to the mainstream," she said. "Because I'm known, and because in terms of music, I don't hear this type of music happening right now, except for Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars, and they're amazing. As a woman I have to hear more of that. I have to hear more live instrumentation, more band and more funk, and I don't hear enough of it, so I created it myself."
Kat, whose style is also reflective of that era, continued, "I'm into big hair, the suits. I'm into trench coats. I'm into velvet like crazy right now. I'm into Gucci a lot, like vintage '70s everything. I'm into Versace."