Cuba Gooding Jr. on White Oscars: ‘This Conversation Makes People Think Harder’

Cuba Gooding Jr. Diversity
Rob Latour/Variety/REX Shutterstock

Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Oscar in 1997 for his work in “Jerry Maguire,” but almost two decades later, the Academy Awards have failed to make much progress.

Following the widespread disappointment of this year’s Oscar nominees, which did not recognize a single actor of color, Variety asked Gooding Jr. his opinion on the #OscarsSoWhite backlash.

“You want it to be diverse. You want the work to show,” Gooding Jr. told Variety and other reporters this weekend at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. “I wanted ‘Straight Outta Compton’ to get something. But, you know, it’s this conversation that makes people think harder when the nominations come around for next year.”

But what exactly can the industry do to improve next year’s nominations? According to Gooding Jr., it all starts with comprehensive storytelling — and a more diverse Academy.

“I think the more members of color that they put in, the minorities, the better,” he said.

“A lot of these films — ‘The Butler’ and ‘Red Tails’ that I was in, ‘Selma,’ another one that I was in,” Gooding Jr. brought up, explaining, “These are black stories that the audience for the history of African-Americans and our contribution is growing. And I think the more projects like that, of quality, after a while, you can’t deny it. Hopefully.”

The actor, who portrays O.J. Simpson in FX’s upcoming anthology series “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” has a slightly different opinion than his “Boyz n the Hood” director John Singleton, who also directs an episode of the Ryan Murphy O.J. Simpson series. While Gooding Jr. is disappointed in the lack of diversity in this year’s noms, Singleton says “there are only so many slots” in each year’s Oscar race.

Gooding Jr.’s “American Crime Story” co-star Courtney B. Vance, who plays Johnnie Cochran in the upcoming series, shares similar thoughts to Singleton, though he is disappointed.

“One year has a wonderful couple of nominations. Next year, none,” Vance told Variety at TCA. “Would I have liked for Will Smith to get a nomination? Yes. But it’s not personal. This year, I don’t want to say it’s about race, but there are only a limited amount of spots and some years they get them.”

Vance — who guest starred in last year’s powerful episode of “Scandal,” which mirrored the tragic events of Ferguson, Mo. — believes that television is making strides much more than film, when it comes to diversity.

“The business of film is going to take longer for many, many, many reasons. It comes down to who’s giving the nod for the films to happen,” he said. “Sometimes, I look at films and go, ‘That was made? You must be kidding me.’ And someone said, ‘I like this film and I want it to be made.’ In television, things are made much more easily. I don’t know why film is so slow and so far behind. I think eventually, they’ll look at television and the great strides that it’s making and they’ll get it — but right now, they don’t get it.”

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  1. Minorities in the US are a bunch of crybabies, it looks like if you belong to a minority you’re entitled to get a certain quota of awards, promotions, Jobs, etc. Black population in the US is only 11% but if it was up to them every show and every movie would be about black people just because it’s fair, they’ve earned it. Awards, promotions, Jobs, etc., shall be given to the best and not just given away to people because they belong to certain minority.

    • Rosa Duran says:

      “Minorities in the US are a bunch of crybabies…”

      Your surname is “Arriaga,” a soundly Hispanic name and in spite of their number, Hispanics living in this country legally or illegally, or “minorities.” Therefore, if is a fair assumption that you are a crybaby too, correct?

  2. A 22 year old that understands equality says:

    Why does everything have to be a complaint? Why can’t it just be a true debate? You know the privileged never sees the other side until they are in the shoes of those people. I find it shameful to live in a country that still can’t come to grips with the fact that black people aren’t complaining about race WE ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY. The day that we use our brillance to say to hell with all of the inequality and create our own is the day that (just as in history) there will be a sure threat and a cause to shut it down because we are brilliant beyond measures and should be judge at the same level as all others.

  3. John Miller says:

    Related Article: Cuba Gooding Jr. Thinks He Should Have Thought Harder About Being in “Boat Trip.”

  4. Bill Radcliffe says:

    It’s simple math…….in two categories, Best Actor and Best supporting Actress, blacks have been nominated close to their population percentage since 2000. Best Actor 12% and Best Sup Actress11.2%. For Best Actress and Best Sup Actor it is lower at 5% and 7.5%.

    If you combine the 4 categories…….it is a 9% nomination rate. A little below the black population rate……But closer to the black acting participation rate.

    This is all much ado about nothing.

  5. Jim says:

    Really time to get OFF of RACE and RELIGION!

    • Sal Oxley says:

      I agree with Cuba! It all starts with the quality of the firms and roles played. I am an person of color (male) and I do not think this is an issue based on Dr. King’s dream: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” That day has arrived…

  6. cristoph00 says:

    You cant be serious? Has Black lives matter affected everything in HW. Perhaps better and other story telling beyond a skin flick of color – may harness ore Oscar buzz. That seat was taken a lot time ago in Selma. So how come nada has changed. Obama was a great president. So? again – why is America so preoccupied on racism? Is it the Trump experience- backlash? Just be proud of what you are – and be unsung heroes in LIFE.

  7. Michael anthony says:

    When was the last time Cubs Goofing released a film.of note? How about Jada Pinkett Smith? Spike Lee? (You gotta go back a few decades). Jada is probably still pissed Willow didn’t get a Grammy for Whip my Hair.

    I think Jada needs some auditing done. Cmon, Cruise and Miscavage can’t be happy with her. Obviously she’s at fault, as Scientology should have brought her enough enlightenment over the last few years.

  8. I would never have admitted to being in Red Tails….

  9. Jim says:

    “These are black stories that the audience for the history of African-Americans and our contribution is growing.” And that mentality is part of the problem…..instead of just trying to tell good stories, it has to be about telling “black” stories. African-Americans only make up about 13% of the US population. Also, movies today have to be able to bring in money in the international market and there is even less of an African-American population in the biggest international markets. Boyega in one of the two lead roles in the highest domestic grossing movie of all time and the job Coogler and Jordan did on Creed accomplished more for diversity than Straight Outta Compton. Hollywood studios want people who can tell good stories and not just “black” stories.

  10. Why says:

    It seems that in our society if you are a minority you have the right get higher education, work, promotions and in this case awards even though your peers didn’t think much of it. I work in Hollywood and I honestly have never seen the so called racism that these minorities claim exists. Academy members don’t exclude people based on there color or culture (although there is intolerance for conservatives, but that’s ok) for this coveted award, they nominate based on the based performance. Sure, we see some nominees win because they are the flavor of the month and we nod in amazement. So the question that people should be asking is should we accept above average as great or great because that’s what it was, a great performance judged on the performers skill?

    • ooonaughtykitty says:

      >>Academy members don’t exclude people based on there color or culture (although there is intolerance for conservatives, but that’s ok) for this coveted award,

      Wow… that’s OK?

      If Justice is blind, why can’t that apply to excellence? What have you got against someone who has a different opinion? What next? …. Torches, Pitchforks? Let’s run everyone OUT OF TOWN, who doesn’t agree with us , Because….That’s OK.

      Got it!

  11. Lisa says:

    ” there are only a limited amount of spots and some years they get them.” What is that supposed to mean? He uses the pronoun ‘they’ as if blacks or minorities are not part of the group. Like it’s a treat to get nominated.
    See, sometimes bigots don’t even know they’re bigots.

    • Lisa says:

      I’m surprised, I just reread the article and apparently Vance is black. I just don’t understand.

      • Michael anthony says:

        Typical, you jump to conclusions and are already to yell racist, until u learn he’s black and then u don’t understand.

        Vance spoke the truth. There are 5 spots open, except pic. The name most in the mix was Idris Elba for Beasts. Yet, his not being nominated may be more due to the games
        of Netflix. As for Will Smith, most critics called him possible, but, the film tanked. All
        these other names were never really in the mix. Compton probably deserved a pic nom, but then again so did Star Wars.

        So, who should have been bumped and
        who should have been nominated? Its funny that Jada Pinkett Smith is leading this charge. She’s released one Oscar caliber pic, Set It Off. Will a few more and he has been nommed. Some of the best actors of all time were never nominated.

        Here’s an idea, release Oscar caliber pics.
        Fruitvale Station deserved a ton of noms a
        few years ago. And not a peep from Mrs Smith. And no, Rush Hour 2 and Barbershop 3 are not Oscar caliber. And Spike Lees piece of junk, Chiraq? Ha!

        Here’s an idea, let’s boycott Mrs Smiths next film. We may have years to wait as she’s so busy raising 2 kids. You’re an embarrassment to your profession.

      • Stella says:

        You and me both Lisa.

  12. David J Hawk says:

    Well, I’ll tell you this. Red Tails sucked. Its an epic tail of black heroes on par with, Glory, and it should have been done better. They assemble these amazing men, and lock them down like a Ferrari on a side street. I could have done a better job.

    So much deeper could this story have been. So much more touching and powerful…and it seems they just punched it out to say they did a black movie.

    …and that’s from a white guy (FYI), who served with black men I’ve called, brother. That did them no justice. Improve. Do it five times better, then do it better still, so it cannot be denied. yes?

    Speak to the heart of America when you speak. They will hear you, and the academy will follow.

  13. BJT says:

    Please stop saying that people are complaining just because. What they’re saying is hey there were some good films that happen to have miniorotiy writers, actors, directors, etc and the academy still ends up with nothing but white people in all these categories. You can’t tell me that Jennifer Lawrence deserves a nod every year. It’s clear the members love her. And you can’t deny who make up the majority of the members of the Academy. Hopefully younger member and more diverse members will be allowed in. Like someone else said in the end the people will have the last say as TV is proving this. Eventually change comes. Hopefully in my lifetime.

  14. Sonny Skyhawk says:

    The lack of diversity in film is only one facet of the many endemic and systematic misgivings of this medium. The recent AMPAS acceptance of diverse members, is only the beginning of a positive reversal in a direction in which eventually you will see diversity become a reality, and not just “set dressing”. Television has just begun to realize and understand the monetary value of diversity and inclusion, because of the prompting from diverse organizations. It (television) did not arrive at that understanding on its own accord, or by any epiphany of sorts, or by any other means than being prompted. Digital platform programming servers like Amazon, Netflix and the many others that exist, will also come around to the realization that they need to be cognizant and inclusive. The mediums of film & television are being brought into an era of diverse thought, acceptance and vision never before known to them, while kicking and screaming. The reversal will not come overnight, as proven by this years Awards, but it will come. The viewing public will demand it, because they and advertisers are the ultimate arbiters.

    • Michael anthony says:

      There already is diversity. Selms is a prime example. Great reviews, yet it tanked at the box office. And no, it wasn’t caucasions who didn’t see the film, it was blacks. The poor box office doomed its chance of winning.

      Lee Daniels made the wonderful and Oscar winning Precious. Then he moved to TV and made the great Empire. But now, season 2 has dumbed down and it’s shedding viewers. The music isn’t getting played on R&B stations. It’ll be lucky to last past 3 seasons. But, keep giving it Emmy’s, otherwise,

  15. ooonaughtykitty says:

    This is ridiculous. Why should someone get an Oscar/ Nomination just because they fit whatever social justice agenda is at foot? Isn’t the Oscars about the BEST? Must we dumb down our process so everyone gets a trophy? Do we have to then start another award show JUST for the truly deserving? Must the Oscars represent whatever disgruntled actor with an agenda needs appreciation, Award? This is sad. :( I guess it means less TV watching in the future, which is good!! because we could all use more exercise. :)

  16. Conner says:

    I am just happy that the conversation is happening and more than last year. I feel that change is on the horizon. So to the people on these boards who want the system to stay as is and feel that nothing is wrong, change is inevitable, it’s already happened to TV. As more people step up to add to the conversation even those on the other side, guess what you too are adding to the conversation.

    • Sonny Skyhawk says:

      It is not about “dumbing down” it is about having the same equal opportunities as others. The change will not occur until the film studios, network television and talent executives, change the endemic vision of “white only” and begin to understand the economic and monetary value of including the true make-up and fabric of a diverse America.

  17. Donna says:

    It’s a tough but wonderful business. Stop the complaining and get on with it!

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