Mason Gooding on how his own relationships prepared him for Calvin Riggins in Moonshot

Photographs by
Raul Romo

Styling by 
Monty Jackson

Not a stranger to the coming-of-age genre with his roles as Nick in Booksmart and Andrew in Love, Victor, Mason Gooding now has a new challenge to tackle — dating on Mars.

Long-distance already has its own list of difficulties, but when it comes to being with someone on a completely different planet, new challenges are bound to emerge. In HBO Max’s newest fantasy romance Moonshot, Mason is ready to take on a character like no other. With his role as Calvin Riggins, the smart, hardworking, and of course, good-looking engineer on Mars, all eyes are on Mason to portray a role that gives fans a new perspective on what it means to be in love.

But, before traveling to Mars, Mason is leaving his mark on Earth. Carrying on the legacy of the Gooding family name, Mason already has many exciting projects lined up for the rest of the year. Taking part in the newest installments of the Scream franchise and with his upcoming role in the film I Want You Back, 2022 has already been a busy year for Mason Gooding. Yet, even with an amazing lineup in store, Masons still keeps true to himself, treating every character he plays as a learning experience. As a bonus, when he isn’t on set, you can find Mason hanging out with his dog or reading the last chapter of Jujitsu-Kaisen. Yep, you heard that right. If you are looking for any anime and manga recommendations, you’ve come to the right place. 2022 definitely has a lot in store for Mason, and with his humble mindset, he is ready to take on everything to show the world who Mason Gooding really is.

Outfit Brunello Cucinelli

“I was shown at an early age how much “good” can be done through performance for those around me and, subsequently, around my community. The fact that I enjoy it so much is just a bonus.”

As the grandson of Cuba Gooding Sr. and son of Cuba Gooding Jr., you’ve grown up with ties to the entertainment industry. Did your family background ever influence your decision to pursue acting?

I can certainly say I’d not be where I am today, wherever that may be, without the handwork and success of the family members that came before me. I recognize that and am grateful for it — if not for the incredibly supportive and wisened perspective offered to me by my parents and loved ones, I would not have viewed entertainment in the way that I do. That is not to merely imply “acting,” or perhaps entertaining in general, was depicted as being entirely dependable, but rather I was shown at an early age how much “good” can be done through performance for those around me and, subsequently, around my community. The fact that I enjoy it so much is just a bonus.

Of the various characters you have played so far, is there a role that has impacted you the most?

I’m of two minds… Part of me wants to say that they’ve all impacted me in such profound ways that they each deserve a sort of spotlight, but I will say in terms of my own satisfaction for how they’ve been received or in terms of how much happiness they’ve brought me personally: Nick from Booksmart because the education on performance and set dynamics allowed for an incredibly privileged first-step into acting; however my role as Andrew in Love, Victor was maybe the most grateful I had felt internally in seeing the way fans and audiences had connected with the show in general that to say I was maybe a part of that at all is incredibly humbling and a true honor.

Jacket Paul Smith; Top Hanro

The Scream series has been a fan-favorite for so long, so when the newest installment was announced, fans were ecstatic. Did you feel any pressure from taking on this project?

Well, as a proud member of the Scream fanbase, I can say with certainty that any and all pressure attributed to the fifth installment of the film was quickly expelled in my first meeting with Radio Silence and the guys behind the scenes who had worked to create such a respectful and thoughtful addition to the franchise long before I had my name attached; sure, the weight of such a beloved franchise is daunting, but when surrounded by such love and support from such immensely talented people, I really had no choice but to be wholly excited. I’m proud of them, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of it in any facet.

Did you find any difficulty switching from the horror genre in Scream back to the rom-com genre with Moonshot?

I mean any difficulty I had transitioning between the two would have been entirely self imposed as the director of Moonshot, Chris Winterbauer, was both incredibly dedicated and wildly capable at immersing the actors in what I could only describe as being an entirely welcoming environment. Every day felt as creatively fulfilling and exciting as you’d hope for on a set of that size and whether it was being scared on Scream or making jokes on Moonshot, I can say both sets were equally as enriching and rewarding. The difference I’d say, between the two, was the horror elements present in Scream made for really stark tone shifts when a character would be killed because we knew that meant that actor would have to go home, and that was always a tough moment… you never wanna lose a member of the family.

Trench, top and pants Salvatore Ferragamo; Shoes Dolce & Gabbana

“The weight of such a beloved franchise is daunting, but when surrounded by such love and support from such immensely talented people, I really had no choice but to be wholly excited. I’m proud of them, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of it in any facet.”

Groomer 
Grace Phillips/Tracey Mattingly

When we first meet Calvin Riggins in Moonshot, it is through a little digital screen. From there, the audience only really gets to understand his character through his video calls with Sophie. Was it difficult having to express your character in an unconventional way?

I certainly wouldn’t describe the method by which Calvin is being explored as inherently difficult for me since I spend most of my romantic life and relationships on the other end of a FaceTime call anyhow; I spent the better portion of my early career trying to convey my feelings and sentiments through the screen of a phone so the experience on Moonshot was nothing if not entirely cathartic. Perhaps all those long nights cuddled up with my phone were meant to prepare me for Calvin… I’d like to think that it meant something in the long run.

Calvin Riggins is portrayed as a man who knows what he wants in life and is determined to see things through. Is there a part of Calvin that is reflective of your own personality?

I think Calvin and I share a certain level of work ethic that allows me to empathize with his pursuit of fulfillment in his career and business endeavors… I just wish someone had done what my mother did for me and reminded him that the pursuit of our goals can be achieved while also being considerate of the people you love… I find the notion of being “selfish” for your career’s sake a troubling one; I’d be much happier working twice as hard to facilitate some sort of cohabitation between my relationships and my career, but like Calvin, often times that’s an entirely futile endeavor for reasons that are far out of my control… In Calvin’s case, though, those reasons just happen to be Cole Sprouse’s undeniable charm and good looks.

Jacket and pants Dzojchen; Top Hanro; Shoes Scarosso

If I, for some reason, had to evacuate to Mars; give me my family, my dog, and a pen and notebook and I think I’d be quite alright… I’m sure they’ll still have cafés on Mars… If you’re with the right person, I guess it doesn’t really matter where you are.”

Imagine we have the technology in Moonshot and you were given the chance to live on Mars. You can bring anyone/anything along but the downside is that you can never return to Earth. Would you take it?

If given the option? Probably not… I like Earth. I happen to think there’s enough to be done here to not warrant my wandering elsewhere… I still want to drink coffee in Paris in the rain, I still want to visit Peru, I still want to sail the ocean with my dog Iggy… However if I, for some reason, had to evacuate to Mars; give me my family, my dog, and a pen and notebook and I think I’d be quite alright… I’m sure they’ll still have cafés on Mars… If you’re with the right person, I guess it doesn’t really matter where you are. 

Just a fun one 🙂 On Instagram, I see that you have a tattoo from Jujutsu Kaisen (forgive me if I’m wrong!) and post quite a few references to several other anime/manga. Do you have a favorite anime/manga or one you would recommend to readers?

AH, here it is, the best question I’ve ever been asked; Of course I have anime/manga recommendations! I’m always happy to discuss my favorite form of entertainment if it means potentially bringing newcomers into the anime community, especially because I feel like it unknowingly incites a lot of western culture without being given the proper respect and credit that I think it is due.. I digress; My favorite movie of all time is the Studio Ghibli movie Howl’s Moving Castle and if you’ve not seen it yet. I highly recommend it. As far as anime shows go, I’ll proudly recommend Ranking of Kings, an anime about a young deaf prince as he works to uphold and surpass the legacy his father had created before him. It’s bright and cute but also boasts incredibly dark and mature themes that I think will appeal and intrigue anyone willing to watch. As far as Manga I really highly recommend people read (and subsequently watch) Jujutsu Kaisen (which you nailed in your question btw, very proud of you) as I believe Gege Akutami sensei has penned what I argue is one of the most entertaining and narratively rewarding stories I’ve read thus far and will continue to read for years to come; I’ve never audibly cheered while reading material before, but I do every Sunday when a new chapter of Jujutsu Kaisen is released.

Catch Mason Gooding in Moonshot, premiering on HBO Max and HBO GO beginning March 31, 2022.

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