Self-discovery in Sarawak led to Golding's Hollywood break
Henry Golding's star is on the rise.
Not long after scoring the lead role as Nick Young in upcoming film Crazy Rich Asians, the Singapore-based host-actor landed another Hollywood gig, the thriller A Simple Favor, starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.
A year ago, Golding would have seen things differently. He would have considered the once-in-a-lifetime offers with trepidation.
It was a two-month journey of self-discovery that led the 30-year-old to accept Crazy Rich Asians, his first Hollywood role.
Last year, Golding - who was born in Sarawak, Malaysia, to an Iban mother and British father - travelled to Sarawak, including his hometown Betong, to embark on the Iban rite of passage, bejalai. It is a journey to seek knowledge and experience.
This was documented in the six-part TV series Surviving Borneo, which premieres on Discovery Channel (StarHub Ch 422/Singtel TV Ch 202) on Sunday at 9pm.
Golding told The New Paper: "A journey like this was essential for me to know my roots and be proud of my heritage. Along the way, it led to a change in me.
"At the end of it, I became hyperfocused and was comfortable in my own skin. I knew where I needed to be and that led me to accepting the Crazy Rich Asians role. In the past, I would have questioned myself more. After the journey, I felt a sense of clarity and calm."
With the guidance of local tribesmen, including his Iban uncle who helped raise him as a child, Golding learnt the ways of his forefathers. It included hunting for food and building shelters.
He recalled: "I was in Bario (in the Kelabit Highlands), accompanied by a man from the Kelabit tribe, and we had been trekking for six hours.
"He managed to shoot a wild boar piglet, and after field dressing it, that became our food for the next three to four days."
Golding was also part of a ceremony that welcomed him to the Kelabit tribe, and he was given a traditional name chosen by the tribe elders - Gerawat.
He said: "Gerawat means someone who was once confused in life but now is found. I found it magical that the name was chosen for me because of how apt it was.
"I truly felt like I gained clarity and that I had stepped into a new life at the end of it all."
Another defining moment was the hand-tapped tattoo he received as a representation of the journeys undertaken. It is believed to bring good luck and ward off spirits.
His design covers the back of his thigh andfeatures a combination of a dragon's head and fig vine.
The method involves a tattoo artist using a 'mallet' to tap the stick that has a needle dipped in ink into the skin.
When the initial adrenaline passed, it made way for 10 hours of excruciating pain for Golding.
The end of that mission marked another beginning -married life.
Golding got married to Italian-Taiwanese TV host and yoga trainer Liv Lo, 31, in August last year.
He said: "It was like coming full circle. My bejalai journey was a pure experience and a significant part of my life as I delved into my roots and learnt about myself before starting a new chapter with my wife.
"I think my mum was proud that I was proud of my heritage, so this means a lot to her as well."