LOS ANGELES, April 8 ― Cuba Gooding Jr revealed yesterday his role as football star-turned murder suspect OJ Simpson had taken him to such a dark place that his pastor prayed over his soul.
The 48-year-old described at a celebrity charity event in Hollywood how filming FX's The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story had taken a heavy emotional toll.
“I was in a dark place with it. It's overwhelming the reception I get from people I don't know, famous or not,” said Gooding Jr, who won an Oscar for his role in Cameron Crowe's 1996 sports comedy Jerry Maguire.
“I went to church one Sunday and the pastor asked for me to stay after the service. And then he and his wife prayed over me because they thought there was darkness in my spirit.
“I mean it's things like that where, I'm like, 'Man, this show has really affected people.'“
The 10-part series, which finished this week, followed Simpson's prosecution for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.
The pair were found stabbed to death outside her home and the former American football star endured one of the most highest-profile trials in US legal history.
Simpson was acquitted in the case but is now serving time in prison for an armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas.
'Fighting the good fight'
Gooding Jr was among a number of A-listers at the annual Motion Picture and Television Fund's “Reel Stories, Real Lives” gala evening, hosted by Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation.
He was joined on the red carpet by Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas, and Bryce Dallas Howard for the event, where actors share stories written by industry members who have benefited from the MPTF's outreach programmes.
In July Gooding Jr marks 25 years since starring in John Singleton's seminal social drama Boyz N The Hood, about black youths surviving violence and deprivation in South Central, one of the poorest parts of Los Angeles.
“We're always fighting the good fight for diversity and always trying to break down doors, so I don't think that fight will ever end,” the actor told AFP.
“And that movie is always almost at the top of the list for me. This was my first lead.”
Gooding Jr described himself as “a young, black kid coming up in Los Angeles who had negative and positive interactions with the police.”
The MTPF cause is close to the heart of Jurassic World actress Howard, whose mother Cheryl volunteered as a young woman at the organisation's residential home in Los Angeles for retired film industry workers.
“It's not charity, it's a community. This is all about community building and finding a way to support one another through the difficult moments, through illnesses (and) aging, upsets, changes in the economy,” she said.
'Autographs and sunglasses'
Howard shared memories of being raised on movie sets by her mother and father, film director Ron Howard, who has made more than 20 films, including Parenthood, Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon.
“I felt more comfortable with the crew. No one was pushing us to spend time with the actors because they need to have their space, and not a little redhead who can't stop talking,” she said.
The 35-year-old is set to begin filming the sequel to box office smash Jurassic World, due for release in 2018, and said she was expecting the film to be “awesome, from everything I've heard so far.”
“Of course, it's a work in progress. We're all so damn excited to get back together again next year,” she added.
Star of the night was undoubtedly Michael Douglas, who was receiving a a special tribute for his work to support the Hollywood community.
“Celebs get asked to do charity stuff all the time. It's always the easiest hook for an event ― try to get a celeb to go ― and we're usually pretty good about this as an industry, as a whole,” said Douglas, 71.
“To be able to do an event for yourselves, for your own people, really means a lot as you get a little older and you realise not everybody's career is going to be autographs and sunglasses, It's not all going to be a dream.”
Douglas hailed the MPTF's 95-year history of supporting the film industry, but noted that the organization was nevertheless younger than his father, 99-year-old Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas. ― AFP