Henry goes to Hol­ly­wood

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy by Beau Gre­aly Styling by Matthew Mar­den In­ter­view by Kevin Sin­tu­muang

Henry Golding talks how he got to his break­through act­ing role in Crazy Rich Asians.

HE STARS IN CRAZY RICH ASIANS. HE PLAYS BLAKE LIVELY’S HUS­BAND IN A SIM­PLE FA­VOR. BE­FORE THIS? HE WAS A TV HOST AND A HAIRDRESSER. IN­TRO­DUC­ING HENRY GOLDING, QUITE POS­SI­BLY THE LUCK­I­EST AC­TOR IN THE HIS­TORY OF TINSELTOWN. AND HE PULLS OFF A GREY SUIT LIKE NO OTHER.

How are stars made in Hol­ly­wood? Some­times it starts with Lisa in ac­count­ing. Di­rec­tor Jon Chu was on dead­line to cast the part of Nick Young, the male lead of his film Crazy Rich Asians (out now), based on the best-sell­ing novel by Kevin Kwan. But de­spite go­ing so far as to in­vite any­one to submit a video au­di­tion on so­cial me­dia, Chu hadn’t found the per­fect Nick—the mag­netic, Ox­ford-ed­u­cated heir of one of Sin­ga­pore’s wealth­i­est fam­i­lies. En­ter Lisa from ac­count­ing. She had met this guy Henry Golding five years ago when he hosted travel shows for the BBC and the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel, and she was struck by his charisma, his Bri­tish ac­cent, and...well, look at him. Chu fol­lows him on In­sta­gram. Golding screen-grabs the no­ti­fi­ca­tion. Asks his man­ager what it means when a Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tor ran­domly fol­lows you. “They’re cast­ing for Crazy Rich Asians!” he’s told. He starts read­ing the book. But be­fore he’s able to fin­ish, Chu gets in touch. “I’ve got two ques­tions for you: Can you act, and will you read for me?” One au­di­tion later and Golding is a newly minted ac­tor in this year’s big­gest rom-com.

Pure luck? Maybe. But then you learn about his Jedi-mind-trick-like op­ti­mism. “Hi, I’m Henry. I’m a tele­vi­sion host” is how he would in­tro­duce him­self when he was twenty-one, hav­ing left be­hind his job as a hairdresser in Lon­don to make it in Kuala Lumpur. The catch? He wasn’t a TV host. But the fake-it­till-you-make-it at­ti­tude worked. “Some­times it’s just that men­tal switch in your­self that changes and opens doors that you would never imag­ine,” says Golding, now thirty-one.

Although it’s un­usual for a first-time ac­tor to nab such a huge role, it’s rarer still for the part to have such so­cial sig­nif­i­cance: Crazy Rich Asians is the first Amer­i­can film with an all-asian cast since The Joy Luck Club, based on an­other novel about the Asian di­as­pora, was in the­aters more than twenty-five years ago. The po­ten­tial for this movie to bring Asians to the fore­front in Hol­ly­wood in the wake of re­cent white­wash­ing scan­dals like Tilda Swin­ton’s cast­ing as a Ti­betan monk in Doc­tor Strange is not lost on Golding, or the rest of the

“HI, I’M HENRY. I’M A TELE­VI­SION HOST” IS HOW HE WOULD IN­TRO­DUCE HIM­SELF WHEN HE WAS TWENTYONE, HAV­ING LEFT BE­HIND HIS JOB AS A HAIRDRESSER IN LON­DON TO MAKE IT IN KUALA LUMPUR.”

close-knit cast. “Ev­ery­body was from a dif­fer­ent part of the world: the UK, Aus­tralia, Amer­ica, we had Sin­ga­pore­ans, Malaysians, and they’d all been through tri­als and tribu­la­tions of be­ing Asians in non-asian coun­tries, of al­ways hav­ing this tur­moil of ‘Do I be­long here?’ We knew that this film would be putting ev­ery­body on the path of nor­mal­iz­ing lead­ing roles with Asian faces at­tached to them,” he says.

“Jimmy O. Yang [Bernard Tai in Crazy Rich Asians and Jian Yang on Sil­i­con Val­ley] re­ally high­lighted the fact that he never spent time—real time—with other Asians in en­ter­tain­ment. He was just like, ‘This is why we’re not united enough. This is some­thing we should be striv­ing for—just sup­port­ing each other.’ We haven’t got­ten to a stage where we can help push each other onto the plat­forms that we need to be pushed onto to get the word out to the rest of the world.”

While he wants to con­tinue telling Asian nar­ra­tives—he re­cently wrapped the film Mon­soon, about a man who re­turns to Viet­nam to spread his par­ents’ ashes—he and his team are fo­cused on lead­ing Hol­ly­wood roles. He’ll costar along­side Blake Lively and Anna Ken­drick in Paul Feig’s A Sim­ple Fa­vor, a fun, twist-filled sub­ur­ban who­dunit. “I’ve be­come like Paul’s nephew,” he jokes. But Golding’s dream job? “Any­thing that De­nis Vil­leneuve is at­tached to, like Dune. I would love to be in a Bond movie. I would love to be in Star Wars. I’m ready to work hard.” Plus, he’ll have no trou­ble in­tro­duc­ing him­self.

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