PHOTOS: Emily Sandifer
TALENT: Mason Gooding
STYLING: Adam Ballheim for The Only.Agency
GROOMING: Simone for Exclusive Artists using Drunk Elephant and Maapilim
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier
WORDS: Thilda Riou
LOCATION: Loft 1923
This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide
Growing up surrounded by the entertainment industry, it’s no wonder that Mason Gooding was destined to appear on our screens at some point, and win the hearts of viewers with his talent and natural charm. However, becoming an actor hasn’t always been the most obvious career choice for him. “It’s interesting because though my father [Cuba Gooding Jr] is obviously a big advocate for the arts, it didn’t really strike me as a viable option until later in life,” he recalls, as I meet him over a Zoom call connecting Paris to his Los Angeles apartment. For the last couple of years, the 23-year-old actor has been expanding his résumé and making a name for himself, starring in Olivia Wilde’s movie Booksmart, Freeform’s comedy Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, and more recently, Hulu’s coming-of-age series Love, Victor.
Mason was studying writing at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, when he realized that acting wasn’t only his “true passion,” but also a career he wanted to pursue. “When you have someone like my dad who has put in the work and laid such a strong foundation for young actors today, it’s really inspiring and only works to push me to want to be better everyday,” he shares. “He, in tandem with my lovely mother, were super supportive in everything I did, specifically artistically.” Although the actor got to be involved in a bunch of student films while he was still in college, his first paid acting job was on the TV series Ballers, alongside Dwayne Johnson — an experience he describes as “nerve-wracking,” since he did not exactly know what set life was like at the time. “I’ll never forget my first day. It was supposed to be a surfing scene and I showed up at 5AM. I was all ready to go and I guess they ended up using the stunt double the entire time, because I didn’t leave my trailer until 7PM,” he laughs. “But it’s all part of it — you live and learn.”
Be yourself, at your own pace, at your own time — once you discover who you are, comfortably and safely let the people you trust most know, and let them in
Indeed, climbing the ladder of success is a treacherous journey where each experience gives you an opportunity to grow. When Mason was cast in the 2019 comedy movie Booksmart, opposite Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, he learned everything that he could. “The main thing I took away from that experience is how immensely talented the industry is in wealth of female actresses, directors, and everyone behind the camera. If you create and foster a sense of community on set, if you harbor young talent and listen to your cast and crewmates, it makes a much more inclusive and entertaining film. In Booksmart, I feel like every character and every part of the movie felt true and cared for.” As he continuously picks projects that are close to his heart, it’s not surprising to see that he was drawn to the comedy series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, and shortly after, Hulu’s Love, Victor.
While Love, Victor is inspired by and set in the same world as the 2018 sensation Love, Simon, and aims to expand the message of that original book and movie, the show offers a much more intricate narrative. Here, we focus on Victor Salazar [Michael Cimino], a Creekwood High student who has recently moved from Texas with his Colombian-Puerto Rican family, and is coming to terms with his sexuality. “I’m all about inclusivity and creating stories that speak to a broader scope of audience,” Mason says, when I question him on what drew him to the project in the first place. “I knew I wanted to be a part of this [because of] the way Love, Victor tackles not only an LGBTQ+ narrative, but also the Latinx family dynamic, or even just any religiously inclined cultural background, and how that affects who we are socially and even romantically.” In the Hulu series, he plays Andrew, a high school basketball player who, in the same way as his two previous roles, is perceived as the popular kid on campus. But in that case, Mason’s profound performance, as well as the storylines developed throughout the show, allow us to dive more into his character’s complexity. As a matter of fact, having conversations with the writers in order to better understand his role was essential for the actor. “Andrew is more of an antagonist and a bully, but I love the idea that even in his giving people a hard time, he has his morals and lines,” he explains. “As most people lack when they’re 17, he at least shows the hint of empathy and accountability for his actions and his words. That’s important to show a young audience you can make mistakes, but you can always make up for it and apologize.” When talking about how he prepared to take on this role, Mason lets me know that mastering the sport of basketball was quite challenging, training “every other day for at least two months” with his co-star Michael Cimino.
It’s not just multi-layered characters the show gets right. At a time when social media displays some unattainable standards for young people, Love, Victor thrives to offer an honest look at teen romantic relationships. “Andrew is maybe very brash and brazen in his basketball playing or his social circles, but when it comes to Mia, he’s very delicate, passionate and methodical,” Mason comments about his love interest in the series, before adding, “Rachel [Hilson] is such an amazing actress and has no difficulty of creating an atmosphere of comfortability and understanding amongst actors.” Is there a future for Andrew and Mia? As season 2 is on the way, Mason states that, if it feels right for the characters, he would love to see them get together. “I would just love for Andrew to have friends in season 2, because filming alone is a pain in the ass,” he jokes. “It’s okay to question who you are, what you like, and what you don’t like,” the actor adds as our talk is coming to an end. “I think what the show does successfully is that it poses a question to the audience that though you may question certain things about yourself, eventually you’ll find an answer. Be yourself, at your own pace, at your own time — once you discover who you are, comfortably and safely let the people you trust most know, and let them in.” As far as his future is concerned, Mason is first and foremost hoping to be able to continue working on projects that speak deeply to an audience. In the meantime, as the current times are quite uncertain, he will be playing guitar and practicing his French.