Some may say that cloudy days are better for self-reflectiveness. On the other hand, we see things clearer in sharp light, we're visible. With contrasts dancing over his face, we're presented with another perspective on Mason Gooding. Here, under LA's filter-free sun, he was born, raised, and, at times during school, bullied for being overweight. Nevertheless, he is thankful for his life, even the heavier parts. Well, especially the heavier parts, because they have made him strong and insightful as a human being. Today, he has the gravitas and confidence to influence others and his message is clear: be loving, understanding, and inclusive.
Dressed in rich colours and patterns to compliment his Love, Victor character - high school jock 'Andrew' - Mason makes for the archetypal modern teenage crush. Yet with his playful energy, thoughtful expression, and ambitions set high, it is the areas of contrast that this series explores. Mason Gooding, figuratively speaking, is contrast. Black and white, geek, but athlete, insecure as well as confident. Let the bright aesthetics and sporty components motivate you to showcase your inner playfulness and colourful self. Then, stop worrying. Mason has learnt that life is too short to care about other people's opinion, anyway.
Mason can currently be seen reprising his role in Love, Victor S2 on Hulu, and will be featured in the upcoming Scream sequel in 2022.
Let's jump in right at the deep end. Who is Mason Gooding?
Mason Gooding is someone who is proud of his environment. I am only as creative and thoughtful as I was taught to be by my parents, who are the greatest rocks of my life - both career-wise and personally. Beyond that, I have incredible friends and mentors who have guided me through my young adult life. I love that about myself: that I am surrounded by people like that.
What's your favourite quality about yourself?
Well, superficially, I love my tattoos. My body art makes me happy every time I'm naked and I see the ink. I feel happy that I have the privilege and the means to express myself through artwork on my body. Beyond that, I like my scars. I have a lot of them. I especially like the one by my upper lip. I got it when I was a baby and I was bit by our dog. It took me a long time to come to terms with it, but now I feel like it's a fun character trait to have.
Why did you dislike it?
There's a stigma surrounding scars and people who have bodily damage. I forget that my scars are even there, and it isn't until I look at a photo of myself that I remember them. But people notice them. They'll always pull apart something about my look before having spoken with me.
As a kid, it made me feel as if I had lived an entire life's worth of injuries prior to my even being a cognisant human being. I was a toddler when I had my face gored by Pitch Black, which was the name of the dog. Throughout elementary school, my scar was the one topic of conversation I had. People were always asking how I got my scars, what had happened if they would be there for the rest of my life. I wondered why an incident I didn't even remember made up such a large portion of who I was to my friends and my teachers.
As I got older, though, I realised that we live so many different lives and during our short amount of time here it's all about coming to terms with who you are. Now, the scars are pieces of my life.
You grew up in perhaps the most ambitious city in the world, Los Angeles, where people from around the world go to showcase their talent. How do you think that environment has affected your outlook on life?
There is a general notion of Los Angeles being the city of dreams and that people here are either superficial or focusing on their career and nothing else matters. People who were born and raised here aren’t necessarily like that - but most of the people you interact with in this city were not born here. They came from somewhere else and had some idea about LA and embodied that in their own persona, simply to fit in.
People are very conscious about their looks and how they present themselves. I mean, when you're in a city full of movie stars, you want to feel good and look good. As a kid in LA, however, it did affect me because I was a big boy. I liked to eat. I had to embody myself as being the fat, funny kid. I remember being pigeonholed socially. People would look to me to be the funny clown and as I got older, I started to resent that. Rather than allowing myself to decide who I wanted to be, I let other people's perception of me dictate it.
I love joking around and I love being funny, but nothing would hurt my feelings more than people making comments about my weight. Although I tried to let those comments roll off my back, they stuck with me. Today, I am in a way better physical shape than I was back then, but I still have the chubby kid inside me. When someone insinuates that I'm eating too much, he - the chubby kid in me - always curls up and gets defensive: 'oh, but I didn't eat breakfast' or 'I just exercised'.
You hold on to stuff like that. When I look back at myself - the kid who was so hard on himself, potentially because of the LA lifestyle requiring one to look the best and feel the best - I wish I could go back and tell him to ease up. My self-critical thoughts, which were based on other people's opinion, were so destructive to my mental well-being.
You did, however, lose a lot of weight. Where did your weight-loss-mentality come from?
I'd like to say that it was from me. Obviously, when you embark on a demanding journey such as weight loss it must come from yourself. But honestly, my weight loss was mostly based on a desire to change the way other people treated me. I wanted to better my general health, but to be candid, I wanted to be that fit person who made fun of me throughout high school more. Being ten years old and weighing 150 pounds is not great health-wise, and I wish I had looked at it from the health perspective of things. If I could re-contextualise my younger mentality, that is exactly what I would do. I would tell him: 'It's not about other people, it's about what makes you healthy and happy.'
That's also why ideally I'd like to be part of projects that showcase a side of life that most people willingly put a blind eye to. A movie whose ethos is inherently progressive and promotes inclusivity and positivity is, to me, true artistry. It's art that alters the opinions of a younger generation to become more loving and positive.
About that: the second season of Love, Victor has premiered to a huge reception. How was it for the project to finally come out?
Before it came out, it was very much like the night before prom. You have all these expectations of what you want. Certain things will go one way, certain things will go another, it might be great and it might not be for some, but in the end, I'm excited because I'm ready to showcase myself and what I have. In the prom-analogy, I guess that something would be a cool suit, but in this case, it's a great television show.
I feel so blessed and privileged. I’m a part of this project that I'm passionate about – and not only that; it also says so much for an entire generation of viewers. I think that the primary statement made on the show by our fan base is that they would have wished to have a show like that growing up. To me, that is priceless. I'm proud of the work I did, partly because I was surrounded by amazing talent. To see these characters’ stories begin, intertwine and alter in different directions is so exciting.
How would you describe the season two arc of your character, Andrew?
I would say a payoff of growth that was established in the first season. We finally get to see him coming into his own and utilize the lessons learned. Now, he is much more concerned with sharing and transfixing his wisdom onto other characters rather than use his platform to uplift the negative aspects of being in high school: the social arena, the bullying, the putting-down to make other people laugh. He has shed that persona.
I love these jock characters that also work to push their friends and loved ones in a positive direction. Andrew does that this season. Or at least he tries to. You’ll have to let me know.
What was your role in high school?
I loved making people laugh and I do connect with Andrew in that way, but I didn't necessarily have the confidence or the gravitas that Andrew does. I was much more bombastic and sensitive. I loved playing video games with friends online, so I didn't have many core friends at school, but I had a main group that sort of mitigated the loneliness that I felt when I went home at night.
In high school, I was probably like the Love, Victor character Felix, who makes a stale in being the best friend. I was supporting as many people as I could, while also having a long list of insecurities on my own. Not quite like Andrew.
When did you realise that you wanted to be an actor?
My father, who is also an actor, had this rule in our family that we weren't allowed to pursue acting until we were 18. He wanted me and my siblings to make an informed decision. When I turned 18, he hit me with an ultimatum. He said: "You can either go to college - or you can start acting. I don't see the value in you learning acting in college." I accepted that, especially since he was paying. I went to college to study dramatic writing at NYU. If I could spot a good script when it came my way, it would make me a better actor, I figured. I minored in psychology because I thought it would be like studying acting without studying acting. Halfway through college, I started working as an actor and dropped out. However, those years at NYU were essential in making me who I am. I met one of my best friends there and one of the papers I wrote in college was part of the audition process in the upcoming Scream movie, which I’m in. When I met the directors, I mentioned that I had written an essay on Scream and they asked if they could read it. I sent it along - and now, I'm in the movie.
I won't lie, it was a hard decision to make. For a while, I even told people that I graduated from NYU, but I try to be more candid about my dropping out. College isn't for everybody, and I needed that time to figure it out. Of course, I should probably pay my father back, but I'll figure that one out later.
Speaking of your father: he is a famous actor, who has won great acclaim. Do you ever feel pressure to break away from the family name?
Yes, but only because that is expected of me. My father is an artist, I am an artist (hopefully, I like to think so). I am going to be, have been by others, and do already compare myself to him. But he and I couldn't be more different as people, so our art is very different as well. But I still have something to prove. That being said, I don't ever let it affect a performance because then I wouldn't be acting for an audience, I'd be acting for him. That’s not my goal. My goal is to recreate in the audience those same feelings I have when I watch a good movie: seen, appreciated and uplifted.
What has your father taught you?
It's funny, that question - despite it not seeming so - it actually requires a rather ambiguous answer. First, it has been a vast privilege and blessing to be around and interact with Hollywood geniuses all my life because of him. From that, lessons and ideas were ingrained in me.
My father has taught me so much, for example, that rejection is a part of the industry. He used to say: "We as humans have no choice but to take rejections personally." By that, he means to communicate that it's not my competencies as an actor that are at fault when I'm rejected. I might have given the best audition of my life, but because my hair is a certain colour, it might not match the actress playing opposite me, so they'll find someone else. The best thing you can do for yourself is to have the audition take place, do your best, and then let it go. Everything that goes on afterward is out of your control.
My favourite ethos of his is one that I still live by: "You just do what you love, the rest will follow, whether it's money, friends, accolades. It's all subservient to just do what makes you happy."
Since the start, you’ve played opposite brilliant actors. What's the best lesson you've learnt on set and from who?
I could give you so many... I'll give you two. The first one is not so much a lesson as an impression. The first time I ever really acted on camera was in Ballers sitting across from Dwayne Johnson. That was the greatest motivation kick-in-the-pants I've ever had for the simple fact that right there opposite me was the exact thing I was trying to achieve. It was a moment of true clarity; that there was a long way to go and there is a lot that can be done.
My other lesson is a little more concise. Beanie Feldstein, who played Molly in Booksmart, had this quote. She said: "I'd rather that everyone on set remember me for how kind I was to them than for any performance that turned out in the moment". I could not agree more. I hope that more than my performance - although I am very precious about my work - people find a genuine and honest person in me. At the end of the day, that's more meaningful than being 'such an artist – he is so method'-type-of-person. There is certainly a remarkable amount of merit in that, but I'd rather have a set where everyone is happy. We get to do what we love – why not love what we do?
We also spoke very briefly about you starring in the upcoming Scream reboot. Can you share anything about your experience?
I can't share much, to put it bluntly. That's how seriously they take the secretiveness of the Scream franchise. I can tell you that it's a movie, it's spooky and it's called Scream. And I’m in the fucking thing!
What has been your most challenging role to date?
I didn't know that I'd give this answer until you asked the question. The first production that comes to mind is an episode of Star Trek: Picard. I played Gabe, the son of Raffi, and I thought it was just going to be a nice little run-through of a scene. It wasn't until Michelle Hurd, who played my mother Raffi, started performing and I was captured in her intensity that I remembered that it's my job to find the truth in the scene's emotion. She found it immediately and I was like: 'wait, let me just figure this out, so I can at the very least support her'.
It was challenging to me, because I had expected to do one thing and while filming, I had to alter my approach 180 degrees. At that time, I had never done anything like it before.
Ahead of the Love, Victor premiere, you wrote an Instagram post supporting LGBTQ+ and Black communities. Why did you do that?
I have an obligation as someone of 'social influence' to articulate my perspective. Positivity and inclusivity are very important to representation; however, if someone feels the opposite, differently - or if someone feels that the way people are represented is misguided or inappropriate, I’d like conversations with them. I think these conversations are way more beneficial to a healthier society than an online forum of your interests, completely divorced from the opposing point of view.
I can post the late George Floyd - rest in peace - and articulate my thoughts as to what it means to be Black in America and have someone say: 'Maybe your perspective is skewed, because you come from an affluent area of LA and you're an actor.' I love that. They've not only educated me to a perspective that I was not privy to, but hopefully, I've done the same for them. That's the level of civil discourse you can achieve on Instagram. That’s why I post my thoughts and opinions. That way, two separate parties can learn something from one another. I always try to treat every perspective with respect and understanding because that's how growth happens.
Speaking of race; I am part Danish and part Lebanese and people always ask me: "Where do you really come from?". It has always made it hard for me to identify as anything since I don’t fit into any box. How would you define your identity?
I think a very common notion that mixed people have is: "What culture do I fit into? Am I this or that?". At the end of the day, I believe it's wherever you're comfortable. If you find comfort in this social group or another there's merit in that. Let yourself be happy.
When I was younger, I would go to the basketball team with all my Black friends in high school and we would dab each other up and afterward I'd go play Pokémon cards with my White friends, and we would interact completely different. A lot of people think that that difference comes from race or ethnicity, but I don't think it does. We all wear different hats depending on the social situation we're in. In high school, I was an athlete and at the same time a nerd and a theatre geek.
For the sake of ease, I'll just say that I'm Black when presenting my origins. If people want it more specific, I'll say that I'm mixed. Beyond that, I just try to be as understanding to both perspectives as I can be. My identity relates to both sides, but there's so much more justice to be seen and upheld on the Black side of my heritage so that's what I focus on.
Describe a situation or place that would encapsulate the feeling of complete happiness for you?
I would probably be in a tropical location. I love Hawaii because of the climate and the level of seclusion. Hawaii puts my wildly active mind at ease. Maybe with my loved one by my side, my dog and their dog, so that makes four of us. Then, I'd have my mother on speed dial, should I ever need to speak to her, and I'd be watching anime at sunset while cuddling. Maybe the beach is in the background. I'm really painting a picture here. That moment of self-satisfaction with people, animals, the setting that I love. Maybe there's a nice rotisserie chicken too.
When we started the interview, I asked: 'who is Mason Gooding?'. Having talked for some time now, is there anything you’d like to add to that?
I would add that I can certainly talk a lot. And that my goal is to be happy. I'm someone who is willing to look objectively at my life and put my foot forward so other people can understand what it took to get me here. Hopefully, they’ll then look at their lives and feel good about themselves too. If I can make other people feel good, that means the world to me.