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Blessed To Play 'Radio'

The new movie "Radio" tells the true story of a mentally challenged young man and the high school football coach who helps him inspire a small South Carolina town.

Having met the real Radio, The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith praises Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. for the faithful portrayal of James Robert Kennedy, nicknamed Radio.

"I go to see this movie, and it starts with you with a shopping cart because that's what Radio used to do, is push the shopping cart around Anderson, S.C., and immediately, the tears are coming down my face."

The challenge for him, Gooding says, was being accurate in portraying a mentally disabled person.

"Especially with his handicap. He's very animated and he's very expressive emotionally and what not, so there was the fear of going too far," Gooding says. "It's more of a child-like innocence that I saw about him and I kind of hung on to that."

The film tells the story of coach Jones (Ed Harris) who befriends this young man, sort of beyond the comprehension of everybody in town. It's a relationship between men, father-son, and it's also racial. Off-screen, Gooding describes his working relationship with Harris as reassuring.

He says, "I had heard how intense he was. So it was kind of reassuring to know that I'd have a costar who took his job seriously. But I didn't know to what extent until I got on the set and he demands professionalism from everybody around him. I had the premium to do whatever I decided, whatever choice I made with the character, because he was very protective of me. And, you know, for a costar, that's like the one quality you need."

To play the part of Radio, Gooding says, was an honor.

"It's so funny," he says, "because the really challenging stuff, the stuff that you have fun creating is the easiest stuff to do, because you're always mentally motivated in every moment.

"As you do movies, you do take, after take, after take, after take, and after awhile, it gets stale. But when you're locked in on the character like this, you can do it all day. It was like that for three months for me. So was I born or was I blessed to be able to participate?"

Radio has been cheering on the town of Anderson, S.C., for more than 40 years. In the early 1960s, the town's high school coaches befriended the extremely shy and inarticulate Kennedy. Now, Kennedy continues to raise school spirit — at the schools games and in classrooms.

Some Facts About Cuba Gooding Jr.

  • Cuba Gooding Jr. was born in the Bronx, N.Y., on Jan. 2, 1968
  • He is the son of Cuba Gooding, lead singer of The Main Ingredient singing group
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. breakdanced at the 1984 closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles
  • In 1991, Gooding landed a breakthrough role in John Singleton's directorial debut, "Boyz N the Hood"
  • In 1996, Gooding played Rob Tidwell in the movie "Jerry Maguire," which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar
  • In 2000, Gooding starred opposite Robert DeNiro in, "Men of Honor," the true story of Carl Brashear, the Navy's first African-American deep-sea salvage master diver
  • Gooding recently starred opposite Beyoncé Knowles in "The Fighting Temptations"