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cuba gooding jr. – Still Hip To the Game

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Words by DeWayne Rogers
Images by Hiltron Bailey for Steed Media Service
As the larger than life summer blockbusters continue to bring home boatloads of cash with the third installments of prized franchises such as Spiderman, Shrek, and Pirates of the Caribbean, one sequel is getting set to hit the theatres that may in sneak up on a few people. The film? Daddy Day Camp. And it’s emergence onto the landscape of 2007 summer movie mania has come as a bit of a surprise to most if not all casual moviegoers. I mean no one really saw this one coming.


Let’s face it. Even though the second half of comedian Eddie Murphy’s career saw him find a comfortable niche as the goto guy for family comedies, a sequel to the surprise 2003 hit which raked in over $104 million domestically just didn’t seem to be in the cards. But studio executive always felt there was a built-in audience that was anxiously anticipating the sequel to this film. And although Murphy never came to the table to produce the sequel, a suitable replacement was found. Enter Academy award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. rolling out sat down with the talented actor to discuss replacing Murphy, and the foundation from which his entire career was built upon, in an interview that turned out to be a very candid look into the life and times of Cuba Gooding Jr.


Daddy Day Care pulled in huge numbers with Eddie Murphy in the lead role. How excited are you about being a part of the sequel and kind of picking up where Eddie left off?
You know it’s really great. I’ve got two boys ages 10 and 12, and they participate in camps literally every week of the entire summer, and it’s been that way for about three years now. And I just think that the whole concept behind camp is just great. I mean these kids literally become adults with all that they have to face, endure and overcome while at camp. So when I got this script, I was not really interested in doing a sequel or trying to fill Eddie Murphy’s shoes, but I was more interested in the story itself. This really stood out to me as its on little movie. And besides, when people actually get a chance to se the film, they’ll notice that this one has a lot more heart than the first one. I’m especially proud about that point.


The importance of teamwork was a major theme throughout the film, but the relationship between you and your father in the fi lm also proved to be very important. In your opinion which one stood out to you as being the most important?
I think they were all equally important to be honest with you. Teamwork is of course a valuable lesson to be taken away from the film, but there was this wonderful sequence that sticks out in my mind, when my father shows up to help at the camp, and we’ve been estranged. During this sequence, my father is all about winning, but the kids are simply focused on doing their best. Many times, you’ll have kids that are participating in sports or other various forms of competition, and their motivations are so different from their parents. The parents get caught up in the competition aspect, where the kids just want to have fun and be a team. I think that message was brought home beautifully with this film. They will come a time when it will be about being first and winning, but early on children need to be developing their people skills, and that comes from learning how to work with others.


Speaking of the kids, what was it like having to work on a set with so many young actors? I can imagine that it’s completely different than say working with Tom Cruise on Jerry Maguire.
Yes, it is different. It takes a lot of discipline. It also takes a lot patience. The kids were all great, but when you look at it, this was the first time working for many of them. When you are dealing with kids, there are so many different personalities, but many times they will end up feeding off of each other’s energy. So if one gets off course, then they all will start to follow suit, and before you know it, you have a riot. I think its just a real testament to Fred Savage and his ability as a director to pull all of those elements together. Especially from the world that he came from being a child star. He really knew how to relate to the kids and pull really great performances out of them. I think in the end we all were able to bring it together and pull off a great project.


Are you an outdoorsman at all?
Nope. Not even a little bit. I don’t mind putting the tent up or fi xing stuff around the house, but if I had a choice between that and a nice soft mattress, and my TIVO remote, then you can just imagine what wins out every time. The funny thing is that I’m always in situations where buddies will come to me and ask to go hunting or fi shing, and it’s just not my fi rst choice at all.


Let’s switch gears a bit. I’m interested in your growth as an actor. How have you grown since we first saw you on screen all of those years ago?
I’ve just been blessed to be involved with so many wonderful filmmakers. I mean the first movie that America really attributes to me was Boyz N The Hood. That was John Singleton’s debut, and he took such preparation in making sure that it was just the way that he wanted it. It took him five years to get it done, and he knew every shot that he wanted, every emotion that he wanted to get out of it, so it made it that much easier. That was a really unique training ground for me. And then I worked with Cameron Crowe and then with James L. Brooks.both phenomenal directors. Then this last phase of my career has seen me doing really dark independent films like Shadowboxer. It’s really been an eclectic, well-rounded career for me so far. I’ve just really been blessed to grow not just as a film actor, but as an entertainer as well.


I’m quite sure that there are many young African Americans actors out there that would love to get your perspective on how to make it in this industry. What would you tell them?
You know honestly, I think that it’s a lot easier to put yourself out there than it was in the past, but with that being said there are still so many obstacles that you have to overcome. I’ve been blessed a lot throughout my career, but I also never took no for an answer. Once you ingrain that spirit within you, then I truly believe that you have a fighting chance to overcome anything and make it in this beast of an industry.


How did you handle it the first time that you were told no in Hollywood?
I didn’t. And that is my point exactly. Once you believe in yourself, there is nothing that anyone can do to knock you off off your course. I didn’t allow negativity to stop me, and neither should anyone else that is following their dreams. I say go for it until you get there.