Henry Golding finds it 'therapeutic' to play gangster in The Gentlemen
The Gentlemen star on his 'crazy' life after Crazy Rich Asians
One hell of a ride.
That was how Henry Golding described his meteoric career since his breakout role in the 2018 romcom Crazy Rich Asians.
The 33-year-old Malaysian-born English actor said at our interview at The Whitby Hotel in New York City last month: "It's just been one of those crazy things. You either jump on board and you kind of ride the winds, or you try and fight against the current. So I find it easier just to go there. It's really random.
"Last night, we were eating pizza in Brooklyn - me, Charlie (Hunnam), (Matthew) McConaughey, Hugh Grant. And I was just thinking, 'How the hell did I wind up here? This is so weird.'"
Golding's dinner companions were his co-stars from The Gentlemen, Guy Ritchie's new ensemble gangster comedy set in London, which opens here tomorrow.
He plays an Asian underboss colourfully monikered Dry Eye, who is trying to coerce McConaughey's protagonist Mickey Pearson into selling him his marijuana empire.
Grant portrays a sleazy private investigator while Hunnam is Mickey's right-hand man.
Playing a gangster was "therapeutic", according to Golding, who has been cast as suave love interests post-Crazy Rich Asians in movies such as A Simple Favor and Last Christmas.
"Often, we don't have the ability to unleash a barrage of horrible, vile swear words at somebody. And growing up with Guy's films like Snatch and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels as a kid, we would emulate that because it was cool.
"We would go around thinking we were part of those types of movies. And so, it was strangely easier than I thought it would be. And it's just so much fun. It's crazy that we get these opportunities to see other people's lives and to step into those trousers once in a while, and it's something that I would love to revisit with Guy if ever there is an opportunity."
Golding also had no problems playing what could be seen as a stereotypical role.
He said: "People are like, 'Oh, you are playing such a (typical) Asian gangster,' and I am like, 'But they do exist, don't they?' Why can't we play those roles just because people think they are stereotypical?
"There are triads and yakuza - there's no doubting those facts, so why not own it? I didn't even think twice about it. And in that crime world, of course you are going to get the nastiest of people. It's not teacups and buttercups - they are the bottom of the barrel and they have to survive."
But Golding did make the point that casting is not yet colourblind for actors of colour.
He said: "It's always been a goal of mine to sit into roles that weren't necessarily written for an Asian. Because I think that's the way it should be. I want them to want me for who I am, rather than what race I am."
Golding said the G.I. Joe action film series spin-off Snake Eyes, which sees him playing the mysterious titular ninja, did not take his ethnicity into account at all "and so hopefully we follow that trend".
When asked about his first lead role in Snake Eyes, the origin story of the character played by Ray Park in the first two G.I. Joe movies, he continued: "We are like halfway through. We have been filming in Vancouver for the past three or four months. The training has been intense.
"The footage that is coming out of Snake Eyes is unlike anything that has been seen in this sort of G.I. Joe, superhero realm. It's much more based in reality. It's super exciting. And I go back tomorrow to start the Japanese leg (of filming) and I think people are going to be really, really excited about this one."
Life has changed for Golding in the last few years, with increased public attention. His wife, Singapore-based Taiwanese-Italian host and fitness entrepreneur Liv Lo, had to rise to new challenges as well.
Golding said: "I think she has come to the realisation that she has had to share me with people more. That has taken a little while to adjust to. She is so much more protective about my time and myself than I am."
He added: "We were in Peru for Christmas break and in the line at immigration, and I think there was a big bunch of tourists just behind us. She speaks Mandarin so she can hear what they are saying. They were like, 'Oh, just take a picture.' And she turns around and she's like, 'You can't take pictures here.' And they were just like 'Uhh...'
He said with a laugh: "She is like my little pit bull, which is lovely, and I think she's definitely into it a lot more than when we began."
He joked he gets "a smack on the head usually" from Lo when women flirt with him.
"I think we are very secure because we have been together since I was 24, 23. We have been through so many iterations of each other's lives that I would not want to share any of this success with anyone else."
Part of the reason for their successful four-year marriage is that they are used to a long-distance relationship, which was how they started.
He said: "Back when we first met, I was living in Singapore and she was in Tokyo. And so, to even start a relationship like that, you have to have a foundation of faith. That's something we have in spades. If you don't have a basis of trust, there's no point in even spending that energy to be with each other.
"But of course, she gets jealous, and I get jealous. She's a stunning, beautiful woman. She probably gets more attention than I do, to be honest. I am not even joking."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards