Working with, and learning from, other established actors has proved useful for Cuba Gooding Jr.
The Jerry Maguire Oscar winner makes a rare television appearance tonight in ABCs fact-inspired new Hallmark Hall of Fame drama Firelight.
In playing Dwayne DJ Johnson, a counselor at a correctional facility for young women, Gooding is teamed with a number of actresses just starting to make names for themselves ... a situation he says he knew how to handle from his experiences with such stars as Laurence Fishburne (in Boyz N the Hood), Dustin Hoffman (Outbreak) and Jerry Maguire himself, Tom Cruise.
They are real artists, and they allow you to create without stifling your creativity, Gooding reflects. That was the main lesson I took from them. Making Outbreak with Dustin and Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, we really kind of sang when we were on the set together. It wasnt just about upping our game but about making sure everybody was on the same page.
Dustin is a real actors actor. He was always going in and out of everyones trailer, saying, Hey, you could say this line or You could do it this way. Since he was in first position (in the cast), youd think, Why is this guy so giving? Then youd realize he knew he was only as good as the people around him. Its a blessing to have someone like that.
Gooding was determined to fill a similar role with his Firelight co-stars, including DeWanda Wise and Yakina Horn, whose characters eventually serve as volunteer assistants during fires and natural disasters.
They were beautiful, he maintains. They just blew me away. Whenever they asked anything of me, Id just keep talking as much as I could, to keep them comfortable. One of them would say, I cant believe Im working with someone with an Academy Award! And Id say, Wait a minute. I cant believe Im working with you guys.
Since hes also the lead in a series pilot for Fox, a law drama titled Guilty, Gooding could be more of a television presence in the near future.