In the two short years since Henry Golding’s breakout role in Crazy Rich Asians, the British-Malaysian star has established himself as one of Hollywood’s most in-demand leading men.
In Monsoon, the lush new drama from Lliting director Hong Khaou (out 25 September), the 33-year-old delivers a career-best performance as a gay man who returns to his native Vietnam following his parents’ deaths – but he accepts that questions will be raised as to whether he should have taken the role in the first place.
In the Attitude October issue, out now to download and to order globally, Golding reflects on the ongoing conversations happening in Hollywood around the casting of straight, cisgender actors as LGBTQ characters – and adds a refreshing degree of nuance to the often prickly issue.
Henry Golding, shot by Dennis Leupold at Hotel Casa Del Mar, Santa Monica, exclusively for the Attitude October issue, out now
Golding’s character Kit has a love interest in the hunky form of American designer Lewis (Parker Sawyers), but Monsoon‘s beating heart isn’t the protagonist’s sexuality, but his search for cultural identity – something which Henry says left him feeling he could accept the role and do it justice.
“We live in times where it is a sensitive topic to have a straight actor playing a gay role. From my point of view, with this particular role, it was the fact that his journey wasn’t hinged on the fact he is gay,” he explains.
“It’s almost like, yes, he’s a young gay man. but the bigger issue is who he is as a person”.
Henry wears shirt by New & Lingwood, shorts by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, necklace by Cartier (Photography: Dennis Leupold)
Golding adds: “I’m going to accept this role because of the journey it represents in this man. It’s not a journey into his queerness. It’s a journey into his history.”
Crazy Rich Asians was heralded as a momentous breakthrough for Asian representation in Hollywood, and Golding understands why the LGBTQ community wants to to be given the chance to tell its own stories.
“I feel as though when it comes to important historical figures, characters that are defined by being from the community, you really need to take a moment to think, this is important for the LGBTQ community to be a part of,” he says.
Henry wears shirt and shorts by Tombolo (Photography: Dennis Leupold)
“The question has to be asked of me: why did you even consider this role? This should be the case. It can’t go unquestioned because there lies a problem in itself”, Henry maintains. “You need to hold people responsible for their decisions.
“They’re conversations that need to be had. You can’t turn a blind eye, you need to keep people in check, that’s the most important thing.”
As for shooting intimate scenes with Parker, Henry insists he was more than happy to get his hands on his co-star.
Henry Golding (right) and Parker Sawyers in Hong Khaou’s ‘Monsoon’, out on 25 September in the UK
“A lot of people were like ‘Are you worried about having love scenes with a man on set?’ I was like ‘No!'” he recalls,
“I come from an understanding that love is love… it doesn’t matter if you’re Black, Latino, gay, straight, bi, it’s that feeling of yearning and that return of that.”
Golding continues: When I was talking to Hong in LA, he already had Parker in mind for the role and so I Googled his name and his image and was like, ‘Damn, he’s handsome, he’s tall, he works out, I could be in worse positions!’” he exclaims.
“We hit it off. Parker is such a lovely guy. It felt so natural and Hong created a really safe environment on set and that’s what you hope for as an actor on any production.
“I think my wife was more excited about Parker than I was – trust me, she was loving it!”