‘I Still Have A Good Relationship With Tom Cruise’: Cuba Gooding Jr. on Post-Oscar Roles & New TV Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

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Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. hits the small screen Sunday night for the premiere of his new “Hallmark Hall of Fame” movie Firelight.

The film, in which Cuba plays plays Dwayne “DJ” Johnson, a counselor at a youth correctional facility, is premiering a little over 15 years after he famously won an Oscar for his role in Jerry Maguire, opposite Tom Cruise. Years later, Cuba tells Celebuzz his relationship with the 49-year-old megastar is stronger than ever.

“He’s such a good guy … I really have a good relationship with Tom, still to this day,” he said.

Given how closely he worked with Tom on Jerry Maguire, Celebuzz asked Cuba if he was surprised when, in 2005, Tom infamously jumped on Oprah Winfrey’s couch while describing his relationship with his now-wife, Katie Holmes. The short answer: Nope.

“He’s such an exuberant, passionate guy — like me. [Laughs]” he said. “If I had jumped on Oprah’s couch, nobody would have cared, because they’d be like, ‘Oh, Cuba’s crazy, anyway.’ [Laughs]”

Cuba, now 44, won the Oscar when he was just 28. What followed were a number of big-screen misfires, including Pearl Harbor, Boat Trip and Daddy Day Camp. As Cuba told Celebuzz, he felt the pressure to live up to the success of winning an Oscar both “inward and outward” in subsequent years.

“You had the town going, ‘This guy’s got a lot of energy, but what role do we cast him?'” he said. “So, [there was that] for almost a year. And then when I did start to get offers, it was like, ‘No, no, no, That can’t live up to the last role.’ There was a little bit of that. It was interesting, because I took all that time, saying I wanted to protect [my] integrity, and then finally, when it was long enough that I hadn’t worked, I took whatever. [Laughs]”

“I think what I tell a lot of young kids, young entertainers, I say, ‘Just work.’ A guitarist can sit in his garage all day, but film actors, specifically, have to be paid to practice. So, why not work your instrument until you get it just the way you want it?” he added.

And working he is! Firelight premieres this Sunday at 9PM on ABC — and now that he has another TV project under his belt, Cuba says he could see himself transitioning onto the small screen full-time.

“Here’s the the thing: For years, I fought doing anything except film, because I felt you want to preserve your artistry for people who really want to appreciate it,” he said. “The older I get, it’s not my job to worry about the distribution of your roles — just find good roles.”

“The best scripts that I’ve read lately have been these TV projects,” he added. “I think there was a transition a few years ago with the major studios where they stopped developing these stories of inspirational stories and now the scripts are, like you say, they’re on television. So, here I am.”

For more on Firelight, visit the film’s official website!

Tags: Tom Cruise