Tyrin Turner: From ‘Menace’ To Man On A Mission 25 Years Later
During the 1990’s there were a barrage of Black movies that spoke to the gritty street life going on all across the U.S. There was New Jack City, Boyz N the Hood, and of course, Menace II Society. ‘Menace’ was released on May 26, 1993, starring Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Samuel L. Jackson and a then little-known actor named Tyrin Turner. The film grossed $27.9 million at the box office, making it an instant hit with quoteable lines galore.
Turner, the movie’s central star, had been seen in Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation video and some projects before landing the role of “Caine.” His portrayal of a street savvy hustler who was torn between the street life and making something out of himself turned Turner into an instant start.
You would think he would been in more feature films, but 25 years later, what happened? Let’s take a step back to where it all started.
Turner was raised in a small house on 51st Street and Hoover in South-Central Los Angeles with his mother, his grandmother, Little, and a rotating cast of family, friends, and neighbors who’d shack up when times got tough. His mother was 15 when he was born, and she was often out of the house by 7 a.m. for her job at the post office (his father reappeared when Turner was a teenager). At 5, he was taking public transportation unaccompanied. Around this time, he began hanging around dice games. The older kids in the neighborhood gravitated toward him, and when he was 12 years old, he lost his virginity to a 16-year-old girl.
“It happened in a weird way,” he tell Grantland Magazine. “One of my homeboys called me and said, ‘There is something popping around the corner on 50th.’ I had a white BMX bike. I jumped on the handlebars, my homeboy drove me over there, and we went through the window and went in there and, you know. I went with my friend. The first time I had sex, it was a train.”
Life moved fast for Turner, but unlike the character that defines him, he managed to duck gang life. One day, he was caught stealing a pair of Vans from a department store and sent home, where his mother tossed him in the bathtub, ran the water, and pelted him with an extension cord. “After I gave him that one whupping, I didn’t have any problems with him,” says Turner’s mother, Delores Richmond. “He didn’t hang out with no one but family and turned out to be a very good kid.”
His uncle Rock Richmond, a former defensive back for the San Antonio Gunslingers of the USFL, told him never to drink or smoke, and he joined the baseball team after befriending future major leaguer Garret Anderson. But what Turner truly loved was performing, and despite receiving a D in drama class, he decided to become an actor.
“There was a big desire and a strong determination that that’s what he wanted to do,” says his first agent, Shirley Wilson. “He wanted it, and he was a natural.”
Although he’d never rapped before, Turner tried a rap career for a little while. He relied on ghostwriters, but took the career change…