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

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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