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Henry Golding Makes Dumplings at Din Tai Fung Restaurant, Talks 'Crazy Rich Asians' Casting (Exclusive Interview)

Henry Golding Makes Dumplings at Din Tai Fung Restaurant, Talks 'Crazy Rich Asians' Casting (Exclusive Interview)

Henry Golding is the breakout star of Crazy Rich Asians, and in one scene of the much-anticipated film, his character makes homemade dumplings.

Just Jared had the chance to catch up with the 31-year-old British-Malaysian actor and we put his real life dumpling making skills to the test!

This summer, Henry joined Just Jared‘s Jared Eng at the award-winning Taiwanese restaurant Din Tai Fung at the Westfield Mall in Century City, Calif. Henry whipped up a batch of soup dumplings (xiao long bao) and we chatted about Crazy Rich Asians, which is in theaters TODAY!

During our exclusive interview, Henry spoke about how he landed the lead role of Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians, and how he actually had to hastily cut his honeymoon short to screen test for the role!

Henry told JJ, “[Director Jon Chu] reached out and it was two questions. He said, ‘Will you read for me?’ I was like, ‘Of course!’ An opportunity like that doesn’t come around very often. And so I taped twice and then they flew me over for a chemistry read with Constance [Wu], I came home, I was on my honeymoon in South Africa where they’re like, ‘We gotta pull you because Warner Bros. wants to–’ They had three people in mind. I was one of them, they had a screen test for all three of us, and then it took them three weeks of decision making to finally come up with an answer.”

Click inside to read the full, exclusive interview with Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding…

Henry Golding – Full Exclusive Interview

JJ: Have you eaten at Din Tai Fung before?
HENRY:
I come religiously. Because we live in Singapore, around the corner of my house, I can walk to one in less than seven minutes. So me and my wife go a lot actually!

JJ: Since you are part Asian, your taste buds must be nuanced. Do you favor one type of Asian Cuisine over another?
HENRY:
Thai food has been a big, consistent cuisine that we veer toward, then Chinese cuisine but Malaysian cuisine, where I’m from, is so mixed in cultures. There’s the Chinese, Indian, Malay, so it kind of encompasses all sorts of flavors [and] herbs. Singaporean and Malaysian food are some of the best foods in the world.

JJ: What’s your favorite Asian food? Non Asian food?
HENRY:
A proper hearty pad thai. Like, big prawns or nice chunks of meat in there. And nothing beats steak and kidney pie with mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s like my favorite comfort food.

JJ: Have you ever cooked pad thai yourself?
HENRY:
(laughs) We have attempted in the past, and it’s the fact that you have to use a lot of sugar. There’s a tremendous amount of sugar in Asian food and usually when you’re cooking at home, you try to cut down on the salt and sugar intake, so it never tastes the same. We even get tamarind paste to make sure the fish sauce is right, but if you don’t use enough sugar, it just doesn’t have the same taste. (laughs)

JJ: So is there a not a healthy version of pad thai that’s really good?
HENRY:
Not that I’ve come across. I’ve had plenty of disappointing pad thais!

JJ: What was it like growing up in Malaysia?
HENRY:
I was born in Sarawak in Eastern Malaysia, so I’m from a tribal culture where my family would go into the jungle and harvest from the jungle. Or we would have rice fields. Or, one of the big things they grow is pepper and they would pick the pepper berries and dry them and sell them. It was always about running around in the jungle, chasing chickens, my brother bullying me, and finding things to entertain ourselves through the summers.

JJ: Did you feel fully Malaysian even though you were half? Were you treated any differently?
HENRY:
As a kid, you don’t know what race was but I always knew my dad was obviously a white guy. It was only until I moved as a kid to England when I was about 9 or 10-years-old. There was obviously, back in those days, not a lot of immigration so racism was prevalent, especially in outer London. I was called everything under the sun from Ching to Packie to everything! Because kids just don’t understand, especially in those days. And I was like, “Hold on…” That was when I realized I was different, and I was like, “I’m seen as Asian in the UK, but I’m seen as a foreigner back in Malaysia. What are my ancestral roots?” and I chose to be proud of both! But up until now I’ve represented more with my Asian side. I’ve lived in Asia for the past eleven years now. When everybody was like, “That guy’s not Asian, like, he’s half Asian!”, thanks to question of ,“What is the litmus test of being able to claim that you’re Asian or being proud of your ancestry?” Is it the fact that you’re full-blooded but you’ve never been to Asia? Does that discount you as not being Asian enough? Or is it that you’re half-blooded but you’ve grown up in Asia, but genetically you’re not categorized as Asian? So there were so many questions and there’s never a right answer. It’s what you feel as a person, and what you identify with is the most important thing. What you take pride with in and the cultures that you embrace, that’s totally up to you.

JJ: You’ve lived in Malaysia and New York. Would you ever live in L.A.?
HENRY:
Yeah! My wife and I have been thinking about moving here. Singapore at the moment is wonderful, we love it. This would bring me closer to work. Might be a bad thing, might be a good thing. But California seems to have brilliant weather. I’ve been sweating my balls off for the past ten years (laughs) in humidity which is ridiculous. So it would be nice to have this beautiful weather and go outside and be able to wear a jacket, and obviously, there’s a lot of freedom over here.

JJ: Are there any Malaysian traditions that you still practice today?
HENRY:
Every year there’s a festival. It’s mainly for Sarawak, where I’m from, that the tribes celebrate the Gawai which is the end of rice harvest. So once everybody’s done with the rices to ripen, they thrash the rice, pick it up, and then they celebrate for a new year. And that’s how they would distinguish a new year–the harvest of rice was finished. The celebration was to clear the air, clear the spirits, a lot of drinking involved, a lot of merry-making and singing, and it’s still a practice today. They defined it around the end of May/beginning of June.

JJ: They always say that birds sort of flock together. Do HAPA people attract other HAPA people?
HENRY:
I personally have more friends from all the different races, and so it’s not true. My wife’s half as well and so I can’t really get away from that (laughs). She’s Italian-Taiwanese. But I don’t have outrageous amounts of HAPA friends, and even the word HAPA was new to me. Like, we call it the Eur-Asian, but it’s like a Hawaiian word for half and half, well, half-race.

JJ: Crazy Rich Asians. Did you get to read the book before you started? Have you been a fan before?
HENRY:
Mm! So I read the book just before [director Jon Chu] got in contact with me.

JJ: How did you first hear about CRA?
HENRY:
I think it was back in 2013 or something ridiculous when Warner Bros. bought the rights to it and there was a big buzz in the Asian community, especially in Singapore and Asia because it’s about a Singaporean story. A lot of actors and good friends were like, “They’re going to make a massive film out of it! It’s going to be set in Singapore. Kevin Kwan wrote it.” I heard about it and was like, “Aw man, this is amazing!” but I was a presenter at the time so I was like, “Someone’s going to have a fantastic f–king time!” I didn’t even think about it to be me. And then, it wasn’t until the 11th hour that they had to choose the actor to be Nick Young, and [director Jon Chu] had seen literally every male Asian actor. He has this database which is ridiculous–everybody on tape–because everybody submitted for it! It was the catch of the century pretty much, especially for Asians, and my name got passed to him right at the last minute because he still didn’t believe that he had found someone who could represent this character thoughtfully and with realness. He reached out and it was two questions. He said, “Will you read for me?” I was like, “Of course!” An opportunity like that doesn’t come around very often. And so I taped twice and then they flew me over for a chemistry read with Constance (Wu), I came home, I was on my honeymoon in South Africa where they’re like, “We gotta pull you because Warner Bros. wants to–” They had three people in mind. I was one of them, they had a screen test for all three of us, and then it took them three weeks of decision making to finally come up with an answer.

JJ: Was there a scene that made you really nervous or really excited to shoot?
HENRY:
Everything with Michelle [Yeoh] was so exciting. Michelle is like the ultimate hero of everybody growing up, and she’s a fellow Malaysian as well, so it was that much more meaningful. We shared such beautiful and heartfelt scenes together. It really funnels her true drive for why she’s being so mean in the story. So, Michelle. Phenomenal.

JJ: Are you friends with any real life crazy rich Asians?
HENRY:
To be honest, it’s a small community in Singapore and I don’t personally have close friends who are–I know of and are acquaintances with people from rich families. So I don’t have friends who whisk me off on private jets pretty much. I wish sometimes I did, but it’s sadly not the case.

JJ: What’s something most people don’t know about Awkwafina? Have you seen her in Ocean’s 8 yet?
HENRY:
She is (laughs) everything you see on her Instagram – it’s exactly how she is in real life. How she commentates her stories is the exact thought process behind her every day. She’s one of the most entertaining human beings I’ve ever met, and one with such a big heart. I couldn’t speak anymore highly about her. She is blowing up right now!

JJ: Do you have a favorite memory of her on set?
HENRY:
I came out first with Constance Wu for pre-production and slowly other people trickled in. The first to arrive was Nora! And I was like, “Oh you know, I’m going to welcome her. I’m sure she’s like out of place and I know the area really well since I used to live here. So I find out her room and knock on the door. I was like, “Hey! I’m Henry, I’m working on Crazy Rich Asians as well!” and she’s like, “Damn! They got some handsome assistant directors on this show!” (laughs). And I was like, “Oh, no… I’m playing Nick!” And she’s just like “Ohhhh”. (laughs) I’ll never forget that!

JJ: Do you have any favorite Asian or Asian American actors and singers?
HENRY:
John Cho. Back in the day, Jason Scott Lee was the first real Hollywood leading man. He was the lead in so many big Hollywood movies–Enter The Dragon. But John Poseman breaking the boundaries when it comes to casting and acting like in this brilliant film coming out, Searching. And of course, Michelle [Yeoh], man. She’s had such an illustrious career but stayed so grounded and so humble and hardworking throughout the entire period.

JJ: Have you always dreamed of becoming an actor? How did you get into presenting?
HENRY:
Mhm! I always knew that I would love to get into acting at some point. It was always in the back of my head, but I knew it would be at the right mental state or readiness I wanted to have lived and travelled and experienced as much as possible. And then when I was ready mentally I would get into it. And actually 3-4 years ago, I did a little semester and it was like a Meisner technique sort of a crash course. And I was like, “Wow, this year I’m going to dedicate the rest of this year doing some of my shorts and doing some films and stuff, and then I got offered a BBC gig called The Travel Show and I was like, “Well, it looks like fate has some other plans for me.” BBC is like the pinnacle of all journalism, so I was just like, “I’ve got to do this!”

JJ: What was your first presenting/hosting gig?
HENRY:
I moved in 2008 to Malaysia. A show called The Quickie was a live magazine mish-mash of new music, what’s going on in the week, but it was twenty minutes every single night, live. Then I was on ESPN for Football Journalism which is a soccer show which highlighted the week’s football. And then, I started in travel shows with poor casting in Malaysia. I did like four or five seasons of travel shows; New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, and around Europe. And then, the BBC stuff happened and that was global, and then, Discovery Channel Asia. So I’ve had, like, a good extensive 7-8 years of hosting stuff.

JJ: Did you acting agents and managers before Crazy Rich Asians or did you get signed afterwards?
HENRY:
I got signed afterward, yeah. Right now, especially with open ethnicity being discussed, there’s more chances and that they’re realizing now that people have stories to tell, and that’s what’s more important than being an outrageously handsome guy or the blond haired, blue eyes. That’s not what’s pulling in tickets anymore, it’s about having that je ne sais quoi–that aura that gravitas, and people are finding that elsewhere. Look at Timothee Chamelet–he’s phenomenal! But he’s not the traditionally handsome, tall beefcake kind of dude. But f–k can he act, you know? Stuff like that, I love.

JJ: What would you say to an aspiring Asian-American actor or actress who might want to get into the business?
HENRY:
Put yourself out there. Prepare yourself by being proactive. There’s no use waiting for a role to come when you create a role. Create the stories with your friends. Start, write a script. Don’t wait. That’s what I’ve learned is that you cannot wait on your ass for something to be handed to you. You gotta work for it. You gotta put the idea in front of someone, and for them to say, “Oh s–t, actually this could work!” You never know. So just stay sharp and just be prepared for when it does break. And when it comes, work hard. Opportunities don’t come fast and quick.

JJ: Your wife is a presenter as well. Is she on the same track as you, presenting until she is ready to become an actor? Do you think she’ll make a transition to acting as well?
HENRY:
She’s very happy not being an actor. She did a little bit of acting in Singapore–she didn’t like it. So she’s probably happy for me to do that (laughs).

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Credit: Just Jared
Posted to: Exclusive, Henry Golding, Jared Eng

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  • AF H.

    Jj, thank you for an entertaining and insightful interview! Henry Golding is so articulate and thoughtful. I’m so excited to watch the movie tomorrow.