Art may not have necessarily imitated life for Mason Gooding, but art has certainly taught him a lot about life. At just 25 years old, the Love, Victor actor – who has also appeared in Scream, I Want You Back and Moonshot this year – is a rising star in the industry, propelled by his desire to continually challenge himself.
"Acting is the perfect middle ground between being able to step into someone else's shoes… and [fulfilling] a desire to show people that, regardless of what social, professional or artistic limitations we attribute to ourselves, we can work to [attain what] otherwise seems impossible," he tells A.frame.
Some of those themes are represented in the films Gooding holds most dear. The movies that have especially influenced his career are also the ones that have affected him deeply as a person. Gooding notes, "In some cases, they have allowed me to navigate my personal life by way of lessons I've learned."
Below, Gooding breaks down five of the films that have influenced him the most.
Directed by Ryan Coogler
I find the representation present in Black Panther and the understanding of people that look like me as super heroic, as extraordinary – more than the average person. A story that, at least for me, uplifted my mentality, both in my sense of self as well as just my excitement to be in an industry willing to take the leap to highlight and showcase the best aspects of being not just Black, but also… more often than not, you don't see as many different cultural aspects come to a head in a movie the way that it did in Black Panther. To also find such great success is really just inspiring and exciting. And I think it's the one movie on this list that I could watch several times in a row and not once look away from the screen. I grew up a chubby comic book nerd. And I feel like the primary understanding I allowed myself to think is that I just wasn't built to be a protagonist. And it wasn't until this movie came out in 2018 that I allowed myself the understanding that it's not a matter of how you look that incites the empowerment you can feel or exist in, but it's how you make the most of your personality, the tools that are ingrained in you – culturally and through your family and the loved ones around you – that incites how you can better the world.
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz
That movie is, of the five, the most transformative experience I'd had. That was the first movie I had watched in another language without the subtitles. I watched it for my French class in high school. That was the first time I had watched a movie and felt empowered, both beyond the cinema and what a film can do. Also, just in the language and understanding something beyond my primary language, which is English. I think it was the combination of pride that I was able to follow along a movie in a language that wasn't my native tongue, and also the amazement in the narrative being told. La Haine basically encapsulates what, as I understand it, Paris was at the time. And how the juxtaposition between classism and sense of self incite your relationships and how that comes at odds with, I guess, sociopolitical climates and aspects thereafter. But it's really just a beautiful movie that allowed me to engross myself in an entirely new genre.
Directed by Sidney Lumet
As a kid, I watched The Wiz before I had seen The Wizard of Oz. So, to me, The Wiz is the definitive story, as far as the narrative of Dorothy and the actual Oz narrative is concerned. That was the first time I had been enchanted by people that looked like me. The Wiz was such an experience. The music was contemporary, enlightening and magical. I think the whole experience just made for one that allowed me to not need a Wizard of Oz for years to come. Obviously The Wizard of Oz is great… but The Wiz, for me, will always be the definitive Oz fairy tale.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
I watched Howl's Moving Castle at maybe 10 or 11. And that incited for me the dynamic romantically that I've tried to adopt in my personal life. That's my favorite movie of all time, by the way. Howl embodies what, at least for me, is the ideal partner that I would like to bring, in terms of a romantic relationship. He's stoic and levelheaded at one moment, and then, at his weakest moment, is an inconsolable cry-baby. Sophie is a progress-driven, immensely talented, very self-motivated woman. I think the dynamic between the two – at least for me at the time – seemed like the perfect and ideal form of romance and enchantment. Hey, if my romantic life could emulate anything of the Howl's Moving Castle narrative, I would say it's been a success.
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
The deconstruction of romance. It wasn't until I watched Blue Valentine that I noticed the idealism and the romanticism present in modern cinema and in a lot of rom-coms that I consumed as a kid. Once I watched Blue Valentine, I noticed a lot of my own personal proclivities to be grandiose or overtly romantic without being pragmatic or practical. That isn't what love is all the time. At times, it's messy. There's two people that have to give up a lot of their lives to support a relationship that, a lot of times, will end up being the destruction of certain aspects of people's identity. It was a very sobering movie. I think just because of the influence it had on me and my understanding of what love is or might be, I come back to it every single time I need a little grounding in my life.