Henry Golding on ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ And Breaking Asian Stereotypes in Hollywood

The star of Crazy Rich Asians talks about the beauty of time at the Cartier Social Lab

henry golding

Henry Golding at the Social Lab. Photo: Courtesy

Right now, Henry Golding is the name on everyone’s lips. With Crazy Rich Asians hitting cinemas this month, all eyes are on him as he takes on the leading role of Nick Young. Golding is perfect as the charismatic scion of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families—after all, the 31-year-old British-Malaysian actor sees Young as someone who is fiercely independent like him. “Our similarities are that we’re very open to the world and we’re not defined by our heritage or where we come from. We’re very much our own person,” Golding says. “I think I have the heart that he does. Throughout the journey on Crazy Rich Asians, it’s all about love. It’s the love he has for Rachel (Constance Wu’s character), the love he has for his family. That’s what shines through.”

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If there’s something else Golding and his character share, it’s having a discerning eye for exceptional timepieces. Which explains why, on top of his leading man role, Golding was invited to San Francisco to be a part of the Cartier Social Lab sessions. Organised by the French luxury House, the initiative sees trailblazers from all over the world gathering to discuss topics ranging from risk-taking to the power of innovation—the same elements that led to the invention of the Santos de Cartier watch, which was honoured at the two-day event with a highly anticipated launch of a new variation.

What have you learnt about the watch industry so far?

That it is so full of history. I think timepieces, and the engineering behind them, are amazing. We’re so technologically advanced in this day and age. But the fact that something we carry on our wrist boasts a level of engineering that has been, throughout its history, kinetic utilising manual mechanics is beautiful.

How is your style reflected in the watches you choose?

I love classic pieces; something timeless and universal that can go well with a pair of Orlebar Brown swim shorts, a day suit, white linen or a tuxedo. That’s what I look for in watches. Nothing too outrageous or outlandish; sleek and tasteful is what I love.

Drawing parallels from the Santos de Cartier, how does its qualities apply to your career?

The watch has over a hundred years of history and its design doesn’t age. In that sense, I think it’s about going the distance and it’s something I’ve wanted for my career. It’s not to be a flash in the pan, but to really look for stability in Hollywood. I also think it’s about choosing roles that aren’t always your everyday action or superhero roles. I’m ready to put in the hard work and not just reap the benefits of being in the spotlight. I really want to throw myself into this passion that I love so much.

Crazy Rich Asians is coming out really soon, how do you think people will react to the film?

People are gonna love it! It’s such a joyous movie and I think that’s something that I take every time I’ve watched it. I just finished the movie and I felt so good, it’s such a complete film. It’s exotic, it’s exuberant, it’s full of colour, so many characters, an all-Asian cast, really puts a beautiful spotlight on the town that we have out here and that’s important.

What do you think the film will do for Asian representation in Hollywood?

I think it’s gonna open up tenfold. It think it’s gonna prove that Asians as leads of characters or lead roles can put bums in seats and there’s a market for it. Creating colour blind roles is important going ahead. I think it’s gonna do wonders for Hollywood.

If there’s a key takeaway from your experience on set what is it and why?

It was my first time on screen and the first time acting in that capacity. I think, just be humble. People in the industry can get really over the head with the idea of fame and being number one on the call sheet that sometimes you tend to forget that everyone around you is working their ass off. We had a fantastic crew, we had so many phenomenal cast members. It was such a beautiful experience. I think if you get carried away in your own head you forget that you’re on this journey together. I think it was really just to keep humble.

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henry golding

Photo: Courtesy

How are you similar or different from Nick Young?

Our similarities are that we’re very open to the world and we’re not defined by our heritage or by where we come from, be it wealth or our background. We’re our own person and our independence is very similar, we didn’t want to rely on anyone. Of course I don’t have the bank account that Nick does but I think I have the heart that he does. Throughout the journey on Crazy Rich Asians, it’s all about the love and the love he has for Rachel, the love he has for his family, and that’s what shines through.

On the topic of Crazy Rich Asians, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done?

It’s going to these weird and wonderful places in my past career as a travel host. I think my journey as an actor is completely crazy, too. Just a year and a half ago, working in Los Angeles [was something that] never registered on my radar. It’s been such a mad journey. I think it’s just going to get even crazier.

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What would you do if you were rich?

The sensible answer would be to pay off all the debts and mortgages of my loved ones, and go to some deserted island with them for a wonderful holiday. Otherwise, I think I’ll thoroughly enjoy something selfish, like travel the world, go on these luxurious holidays and eat at the most wonderful restaurants.

What’s the most Asian thing about you?

My heritage is definitely the most Asian thing about me. It doesn’t mean anything to me when people say that I’m not Asian enough because I’m half-British. They have no idea what my beliefs are. That, and my love of dried sour plums and sour sweets. I’ve been described as a pregnant lady because I need and love those.

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If you had the chance to show your Singapore to the world what spots would you cover and why?

What I love about being back in Singapore is those evening walks along the river and all the way up until the Marina Barrage, past the Gardens. If you go at the right time, golden hour, there’s so much life along the river. So many people are jogging, so many families walking, eating at satay by the bay and just taking that walk along the river at that beautiful time of day, that is the Singapore that I love and I think that’s something I always show my friends and family who are visiting Singapore. That’s the most Singaporean thing for me, seeing Singaporean families and people who live here basking in that joy.