A young actor who looks like he’s set to come out of the New Year’s starting gate at a pace… and not look back.
By Moonah Ellison
Photography by David Higgs
Mason Gooding is feeling good. Wait, that was too easy, but definitely true nonetheless. The actor, who’s dad Cuba Gooding, Jr. won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in 1996’s Jerry Maguire, is set to make 2022 his own, with a bevy of projects that are a sure-fire bet to make Gooding a household name. He’s got the latest installment of Scream in January, the Amazon romantic comedy I Want You Back with Jenny Slate and Charlie Day in February, the just-wrapped indie Pools opposite Odessa A’zion, Michael Vlarmisand Ariel Winter as well as HBO Max/New Line’sMoonshot with Cole Sprouse and Lana Condor. Season 3 of Hulu’s Love, Victor is also calling him back and will return next year. Moves sat down with Gooding to discuss his new projects, spotting a good narrative in a script, and chatting about horror films over Zoom.
Moonah Ellison: So let’s kick it off. Tell me how you kind of processed your family saying 18 is the time you can actually kick off your acting career? What does that feel like coming from a family that is so articulate in everything that they do? How did you deal with that?
Mason Gooding: She’s done her homework ladies and gentlemen. To say I’m appreciative of both my mother and my father’s perspective and making me wait until I was mentally, physically, and emotionally ready for the trials and tribulations of entertainment—or Hollywood in general—would be an understatement. I feel like asking a child to embody and emulate the emotions and experiences of someone else prior to even knowing who they are personally as a feat that I think most adults have trouble doing. That being said, though I can’t say with any sort of assertiveness that I am entirely aware of who I am, I do know what attracted me most to acting as an art form and as a vocation is that I can learn different walks of life, different experiences, and different lifestyles and embody them and do a character in a work of art and hopefully people will enjoy it and take something from it. Or maybe not you know you take some, you take the good, to take the bad, and hope for the best.
ME: But obviously you wanted to do it because when you hit 18, I think the fact that your parents actually had the strength to kind of say okay go figure out your life first, don’t make this your first passion just because it’s a family tradition. Right?
MG: Right. It’s funny I’ve always loved performing, I was a very obnoxious child, and when it came to time to ask that question of pursuing acting or going to college, I remember being told by my father, ‘I don’t know if it’s necessarily lucrative to go to college and study acting when most of acting is human experiences’ and for that reason I decided it might make sense to go to school for something tailor-made to service my passion which is acting, but not necessarily embedded in what acting is. So I went to school for writing and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the education I got from New York University. I can spot a good piece of literature as well as a good script and allow myself sort of to look from within and see where I fit in. See where the statement in the narrative is being made and how I agree with it and then kind of inform how I approach a character or a piece of art.
ME: I’d like to expand on that. You just talked on something there that I really find fascinating to hear. What is the narrative that you tend to look for when you’re looking for that perfect piece of art that you want to go after?
MG: I feel like so long as the work says something and it says it boldly and it says it eloquently, I’m happy to at least consider what format the art speaks to me. For example, I love a good think piece on the human condition. I love when we’re navigating the psyche of human beings and how tragedy or excitement or positive stimulus affects their way of life and if you can make a profound statement on that, that maybe hasn’t been made before, I love it.
ME: Let’s talk about some of the things you’ve got coming out. Share some of the things that are happening right now in your journey.
MG: First and foremost we have Scream 5 coming out January 14 which I couldn’t be more excited about. Then in February, we have a movie penned by dear friends and visionaries Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger who also did our show Love, Victor [Hulu]. This movie is called I Want You Back starring Jenny Slate and Charlie Day and it’s incredible. Shortly thereafter, I have a movie coming out called Moonshot and then sometime after that I did a movie in Chicago with Tyler Alverez, Odessa A’zion, Ariel Winter, Francesco Noel, and that movie is called Pools.
ME: Let’s go back to Scream. You touched on that and I know you can’t say very much about it.
MG: I met with Tyler [director Gillett] and Chad [producer Villella]. We chatted about horror films for two hours on Zoom, it was in the middle of the pandemic, and we talked about all things Scream, all things horror in general. I’d say it was about a week and a half before I heard anything, but I was in my apartment, playing video games, and I got a phone call and they were like hey so the screen meeting went well. And I was like oh I thought so too. So well in fact they would like to work with you.
ME: You also touched on music playing a big part in your world. Tell me a little bit about that? Is that something that is personal? Are you actually developing something musically?
MG: I didn’t have many friends growing up and a lot of times I would sit by myself and listen to music and generate situations or scenarios that made me feel comfortable socially. Especially if I have a crush on someone I tend to just listen to music and think about them for hours on end. I have two favorite artists, I know I’m cheating, Sam Cooke is and his music has infected me in such a visceral and lasting way… The other one is The 1975 with front man Matty Healy who I might be in love with. I think he’s an incredible artist who isn’t necessarily afraid to share his opinions.
ME: Have you always wanted to be an actor and if you had to take another vocation in another dream job and what would it be?
MG: For the longest time I really wanted to be a camp counselor. I love kids. I want kids more than anything. And to be able to have like a cabin of kids and walk them through hikes was like a dream of mine. And that kind of morphed into this new passion and love: I would really love to be a history teacher. My life has changed irrevocably for the best due to certain teachers in my life. I love teachers and what they do, good ones obviously, and I love history as well. I could talk your ear off about fun history facts but we don’t have time for that. We’ll get some coffee at some point.
ME: I cannot obviously leave this interview without touching on your dad and your relationship and his role and how do you find that you deal with that?
MG: I would likely not be as passionate about acting and art if not for my father who himself predicated a lot of his relationships on true artistry. He wouldn’t surround himself with people who didn’t take him or his art seriously because he felt that and being in groups that further your own understanding of the world as it exists and art itself, mainly filmmaking, he felt it a waste of time. And for me I think something I learned is that you should really only work with and surround yourself with people who are as passionate about telling a good story or creating positive or negatively moving art so that you can either learn something from them or grow as an artist yourself. In terms of navigating him and his version of celebrity and how that’s morphed over the years I talk to him.
photography David Higgs
styling Wilford Lenov @ celestine agency
grooming Tasha Reiko Brown
@ the wall group