Henry Golding on not being Asian enough for Crazy Rich Asians role
Lead actor says he's used to half-British, half-Malaysian heritage being criticised
Crazy Rich Asians may have created a matinee idol in Henry Golding, the half-Malaysian, half-British travel show presenter-turned-leading man who reluctantly auditioned for the Hollywood rom-com, which opens here on Wednesday.
He plays Nick Young, the scion of one of Singapore's wealthiest Chinese families and also one of the country's most sought-after bachelors.
But his casting did come with some controversy, with detractors accusing him of not being "Asian enough" for the role.
But it is criticism that the 31-year-old - who was originally from Sarawak - has been receiving all his life.
At our interview at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills, Golding said: "As a kid, I grew up in the UK, but have lived most of my life since then in Asia, so I can relate to not feeling 100 per cent at home or belonging in either place.
"I've adopted numerous cultures. In Asia, you go there, and you think, 'I am back to my motherland, fantastic'. And they are like, 'Do you speak Malay, do you speak Chinese?' 'No, I can only speak English'. 'Oh, you are definitely not Asian'.
"And so that's always been a struggle, but I never let it get me down, and I concentrate on my strengths and my passion that has led me to acting and I hope that I am going to have an illustrious long career."
On how he came up with the character of Nick, he said: "One reference for me was Cary Grant in Suspicion. He has this air, this aura. And for (director) Jon (M. Chu), he needed Nick to be John F. Kennedy Jr, who used to ride around on his bike in New York, and be a person of the city.
"And so it was such a joy, because that is not only slightly similar to how I am, it's kind of the goal for a lot of what is going to dictate the rest of my career. I want to bring back that old Hollywood charm in a very different sort of spin, as an Asian leading man."
And his experience on the Crazy Rich Asians set with an all-Asian cast couldn't be more perfect.
He said: "It being my first movie, I was like, 'I have a new family and a new best friend? Is this what making movies is like?' Most people were like 'No, this is really rare, this is something super special'.
"The fact that we were Asians from all walks of life, we connected in a way that we have all been through the struggles of identity.
"We hung out after work and we went beyond wrap times just to get that last shot. We would wait for like an hour for the buffet to open in the hotel, just so we would be able to all eat together. It was such a galvanising experience and we still are a big family."
Golding was actually on honeymoon when Chu called him for a final make-or-break audition.
He married Italian-Taiwanese TV presenter and yoga instructor Liv Lo in 2016, and the couple are based in Singapore.
Golding recalled: "I was in South Africa for one day. Jon was like, 'I have got to pull you, (film studio) Warner Bros. really wants a screen test and this is the last thing I am ever going to ask you and I promise you this is going to be worth it'."
He wasn't the one to sacrifice a honeymoon.
Chu himself got married a couple of weeks ago in Napa, California, where Golding was one of his groomsmen, and Chu's honeymoon got cut short too to do the Crazy Rich Asians press tour.
"So we still need to make amends with the wives. But they understand, for a project like this, a lot of people gave up a lot, it was something special," said Chu.
Golding's own wedding took place in Sarawak, underneath Mount Santubong.
He recalled: "I was stressing until I saw my wife coming down the aisle and then everything just dropped away. I was blubbering, I couldn't make my way through my vows. I wrote out a very meaningful paragraph, and every single line I broke down and I was wiping away tears. She kept it together, she is a strong woman."