Mason Gooding, son of Cuba Gooding Jr, is on the come up and we’re here for it.
Ever since the risque Porky’s film franchise of the 80s, the idea of raunchy teen comedies has essentially become a summertime regularity.
From Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Risky Business all the way through the American Pie franchise, coming of age comedies that are risky business have become a favorite part of cinema for many.
Booksmart, the directorial debut of Olivia Wild, is just that sort of comedy, but updated for modern times. Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte, Booksmart tells the story of two high school seniors who have been best friends since childhood.
As their senior year inches ever closer to conclusion, two young ladies who have played by the rules their entire scholastic careers decide to live it up a little while they still have the chance.
Mason Gooding co-stars in the film as Nick, a popular high school athlete at the school, and has also starred in Ballers as Parker Jones, his most prominent role to date.
Recently, I had the chance to talk to Gooding, the progeny of Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr, about his burgeoning film career and the loss of family friend, John Singelton.
The Shadow League: Director John Singleton just passed. Your father’s breakout role was in his first film, Boyz n the Hood.
Mason Gooding: John Singleton was like family, as you may know. On top of that he was an icon. It’s funny, growing up around John, and the relationship he had with my father, it was really like a father-uncle relationship. They would really butt heads and they loved one another.
It taught me the relationship between a director and an actor can be amicable appreciation between two equals or two greats in the artist field. Being a young actor, even though I didn’t realize I was going to be an actor at that time, gave me life. It wasn’t just a job, it was something you could love, hold onto and find life in. He was a great and I was praying for him everyday.
TSL: Oftentimes, the children of great artisans don’t go into the same field as their accomplished parents. Or, if they do, it’s only halfheartedly. How did it occur for you?
MG: It wasn’t until I got older that acting became the sort of avenue to fall in love with so many processes of the medium. For example, writing and directing are two things I really loved about film, but acting and the psychology of other people is just what draws me to it indefinitely.
I’d like to think that if my father wasn’t acting, it would still be something I would be drawn to. But more than the access and wealth that people think actors love, I particularly love studying human behavior and why we are the way we are and maybe they can learn something from a character or maybe even a little about themselves.
TSL: So this role came about organically for you?
MG: I auditioned for this role months before they actually started filming and it was basically this marriage between the scenes they gave me and improv.
Growing up I wasn’t at all like the character. The character Nick is cool, very laid back, he loves everybody, he’s really personal and social, and I wasn’t like that in high school. I was a chubby kid dork who really just wanted to read comic books and play video games.
When I was auditioning, I realized that made me the perfect person to play someone like Nick. Being something of a socially distant person as a kid gave me the ability to be able to watch people like Nick and project what I learned from being around those people and put into the character.
I brought that into the audition itself. We did an improv session and the rest was history, man.
TSL: What was it like working with Olivia Wild for her directorial debut?
MG: This is one of my favorite questions because I can talk about Olivia all day. She is really a queen of her craft. She knows exactly what aesthetics she’d like to portray on film.
She creates a collaborative atmosphere where we’re both kind of talking through the film and the motives of the character so I can at least present them as my own idea. She directs and influences us in a way that I think it all adds up to some great work. Really something special.
Booksmart opens in theaters nationwide May 24.