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Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. Has Lived on Both Sides of the ‘Hood

Cuba Gooding Jr. grew up in many ‘hoods in Los Angeles.

“I have seen all aspects of community life,” notes the 23-year-old star of “Boyz N the Hood,” writer-director John Singleton’s acclaimed drama about life in South-Central Los Angeles. “I have lived on both side of the tracks.”

Son of the lead vocalist for the R&B; group, the Main Ingredient, Gooding spent his early years in Granada Hills. “I was one of the only black kids in school,” he recalls. “It was a public school, but all of these rich white kids would go there. They didn’t know about prejudice yet.”

That wasn’t the case when his parents split up and Gooding lived with his mother in North Hollywood. “It was my mom who was truly trying to make (life) better for the family and having a hard time at it,” Gooding says. “There were kids at that school trying to get the same education as in Granada Hills, but being faced with all kinds of prejudice.”

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In “Boyz N the Hood,” Gooding plays Tre Styles, a high school senior who, with the love and discipline of his father, manages to stay out of the gangs. As a teen-ager living in Fullerton, Gooding was tempted to join the gangs, but discovered an out in break-dancing.

“It was a way of keeping my mind focused while living in the streets and hanging with the kids,” he explains.

Gooding believes “Boyz” paints a realistic picture of life in South-Central L.A.

“A lot of the experiences come from John Singleton’s personal experiences,” he says. “We show it, keep it real and true to life. The underlying theme of the movie is love and family.”

Gooding, who recently completed the boxing drama “Gladiator,” wants to follow in the footsteps of Singleton. “I want to make films,” he says. “I want to write and direct everything--not just black films.”


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