Cuba Gooding Jr. is playing perhaps the most controversial role of his career in the upcoming true crime series, American Crime Story. The actor plays O.J. Simpson in Ryan Murphy’s telling of the actor and football star’s 1995 murder trial, and recently opened up to ET about taking on the controversial role.
“It's hard, because as you walk through some of these scenes -- like with the glove -- I mean there's a lot of stuff that could be sensationalized just for entertainment's sake and this is still a crime,” Gooding said at the winter TCA on Saturday. “There are still families that are devastated by these deaths and I think if anything I took away from the six months of walking through this journey, it's that I felt grief for those families.”
Reliving the murder trial certainly stirred up emotions for Gooding, but he said he had to remain impartial about Simpson’s innocence or guilt while filming the series.
“I mean everybody has their opinion of course,” he admitted. “I don't want to influence the character. I can't judge a character that I portray. I have to be very neutral with the emotional core of that character. The minute I judge him, I miss out on all these other wonderful colors of his personality.”
Researching the role, however, did not include contacting Simpson in real life. The former football star is currently serving a 33-year sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada for felony charges stemming from an armed robbery in 2007.
“I'm playing him at his most flamboyant, charismatic self,” Gooding said when asked why he didn’t reach out to Simpson during filming. “If I played him today, then I'd [have] probably visited fifty times but no, this was at a time in his career where he was in a different state of mind.”
American Crime Story premieres Feb. 2 on FX.