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Cuba Gooding Jr. Defends American Crime Story Airing the N-Word: 'Our Job as Artists Is to Reflect the Ills of Society'

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Playing O.J. Simpson defense attorney F. Lee Bailey in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Nathan Lane called the n-word “the most powerful word in the English language” – and gleefully threatened to “impale” Det. Mark Fuhrman, who discovered key evidence at the crime scene but allegedly had a history of using the racist epithet.

During Tuesday night’s episode, Bailey asked Fuhrman (Steven Pasquale) on the stand if he’d used the slur in the past 10 years, repeating the word multiple times – just as he did in real life as stunned Americans watched the proceedings on TV.

Cuba Gooding Jr. tells PEOPLE he stands by the show not censoring the controversial term.

Defense attorney F. Lee Bailey in court in 1995 (left) and Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
POOL/AFP/Getty Images; FX
“Absolutely I think it’s important,” Gooding, 48, tells PEOPLE of viewers hearing the n-word. “Our job as artists is to reflect the ills of society sometimes and to find a truth in that, and I think you can’t start the healing process until you recognize the truth and all of its ugly warts and all.”

The star adds that next week’s episode, which covers the infamous “Fuhrman tapes” was “the most upsetting” for him to film.

“That one’s brutal,” he says.

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesdays (10 p.m. ET) on FX.