Late last month, the stars of “American Horror Story: Roanoke” turned out in force for a PaleyFest panel to chat about the ever-popular FX anthology series and what’s in the cards for future seasons. It’s the kind of setting that should be easy and fun, but star Cuba Gooding Jr. took things in a decidedly uncomfortable (and, frankly, bizarre) direction when he lifted up the skirt of his co-star Sarah Paulson in front of a packed house.
As Paulson jumped out of her seat — incidentally, next to Gooding, who she also worked with on “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” — to greet Kathy Bates, Gooding leaned forward and lifted up the back of her purple gown.
While Paulson herself seemed more surprised than anything, once news of the incident hit the internet, fans of the actress were up in arms at Gooding’s actions. (As an EOnline story put it, “Cuba Gooding Jr. Lifted Sarah Paulson’s Skirt and the Internet Is Alarmed,” which is a nice way of putting it.) Fans called the move a wide range of things, from “disrespectful” to “gross” to “definitely NOT OK,” but Gooding himself remains seemingly nonplussed by his actions.
At the FX All-Star Upfront in New York City on Thursday, PEOPLE spoke with the Oscar winner to get his take on the incident, which he deemed “a very teachable moment.” Yet Gooding’s teachings appear to extend not to himself — hey, maybe don’t lift up skirts? — but to the internet reaction machine.
“I have two sons in college,” he continued. “And I say to them, ‘Guys, the internet, it’s a beast. It’s an information highway without regulation. Any image you put on there can be interpreted any way it wants to.'” Well, that’s one way to take it.
He added, “Yet that image was taken out to represent some kind of sexual misconduct, and that wasn’t my intent,” though he did little to explain his actual intent.
“The first person, when I heard about the fervor, I called Sarah, I said, ‘I love you, I see you as my sister,’ and she said, ‘I feel the same way about you.’ And so I let it go,” he said. “I love the lady that is Sarah Paulson. We have a banter like brother and sister, which is how the spirit of that whole panel was.”