Perhaps one of the biggest questions going into the now-massively successful American Crime Story was how Cuba Gooding Jr. would play accused/acquitted murderer O.J. Simpson. Well, the actor explained his approach in depth while visiting The Late Late Show with James Corden.
First Gooding talks about how everyone in Los Angeles comes up to him with all kinds of stories and memories of Simpson. “Just really from subtle stuff like, ‘Oh, he used to come here and eat,’ to one day I ran into Ron Goldman’s ex girlfriend, you know?” he says. I would’ve loved to have learned how that went.
When Corden asks whether Gooding has to decide whether Simpson is guilty or not in order to play him, the actor says no:
As artists, it’s dangerous when you either deitize or demonize a character that you’re portraying, because there’s so many colors in your performance that you miss out on, because of your bias. So, I try to specifically keep a kind of blank state frame of mind. I had an agreement with Ryan Murphy that, you know, we would do certain takes guilty, certain takes innocent, just to play that. And then when he got into the editing room, he had the plethora of emotions to play with.
This sounds like a smart way to play O.J. Simpson, to let viewers decide for themselves whether Simpson is guilty or not. Just like when the real trial played out all those years ago. And as Gooding said in a previous interview, the point of the show isn’t to determine guilt, but to chronicle the circus around the trial that may have influenced the verdict. In that previous interview, however, Gooding seems to imply that he thinks Simpson is innocent. So, do with that what you will.