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The Untold Truth Of Henry Golding

Henry Golding burst onto the scene as Nick Young in the international smash hit "Crazy Rich Asians." And with his strong acting abilities, model looks, and natural charisma, Golding has quickly become a major Hollywood player. He has performed in a variety of films since his breakout role, making it a point to select roles that are interesting, distinct, and varied. Golding has also been exploring different genres with his work -– in the last few years, he has appeared in a drama ("Monsoon"), a romantic comedy ("Last Christmas"), a thriller ("A Simple Favor"), and an action-comedy ("The Gentlemen"), for example.

Golding's current and in-production films show that he has continued to opt for new and exciting endeavors. He recently played the titular character in "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins," a much anticipated action movie. Despite now being a big star and world-renowned heartthrob, Golding was not always on track for a Hollywood life, and he is definitely not your basic cookie-cutter celebrity. Here are some untold truths about Henry Golding.

Henry Golding used to be a hairdresser

Long before he was a leading man in movies, Golding was just a kid who cut hair –- which is exactly what he wanted for his life. The actor dropped out of school at 16, after working Saturdays for a barber for a while, and eventually moved to London to work under the famed hairstylist Richard Ward (per GQ). Golding worked for Ward in his swanky salon in London's Sloan Square for five years. "I loved working as a hairdresser, and you hear a lot of conversations, which is useful in acting," he told the Evening Standard.

Nowadays, Golding doesn't have much time for hair styling –- though he did sometimes work on family members' locks during the COVID-19 lockdowns. "I did cut my wife's hair," he told Metro in September 2020. "It was a drastic haircut just because she was being driven wild. But as soon as nail bars and hairdressers opened again she got herself a proper haircut. I am rusty to say the least." For what it is worth, his wife, Liv Lo, is in great company -– Golding's past client list includes James Middleton, Princess Kate's brother (via Entertainment Tonight).

He loves travel – and even hosted a travel show

At age 21, Golding decided to head back to Malaysia, where he was born (his family left when he was eight) to try his hand at broadcasting. It was an idea that had been contemplating for a while, but that was also rather spur-of-the-moment. "One day, I was just like, 'What the hell, why not! Let's just start making plans to move over there, buy a one-way ticket and try my luck!'," he said in an interview with NME.

It did not take long for a guy who looks like Golding to get his face on TV. Shortly after arriving in Kuala Lumpur, he landed at ESPN hosting a football show, before transitioning to the BBC, where he hosted "The Travel Show," a program that took him on many great explorations (via Today). He also reportedly worked as a host for Discovery Channel Asia (per GQ), so it makes sense that the charismatic actor would love travel as much as he does.

In a July 2021 interview with CNN Travel, Golding talked about his dos and don'ts when it comes to travel. Birkenstocks are apparently a no, but street food and fast-drying clothing are a yes. Perhaps most important, technology is a must –- and that includes a good camera, a smartphone, and a portable speaker. "Sometimes just sitting and with a bit of music playing, having a picnic out overlooking a lake or a river of some sort, just chilling out in the park and taking a moment to relax. That's one of the joys of traveling," he said.

Golding has lots of tattoos

Golding has a fair number of tattoos, including matching ones on each shoulder, a couple on his torso, one on his triceps, and an especially large one on his thigh. "They are the bane of my existence when you need to cover them up," he said in a YouTube video for Wired, adding that he's probably done getting inked due to the extra three to four hours it adds to his call time. Nonetheless, Golding clearly appreciates the art of tattooing, and all of his pieces of body art hold meaning for Golding beyond just the aesthetic appeal.

His shoulder tattoos, for example, have a deep cultural meaning. "I'm from a tribe in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, called the Iban tribe. [The tattoo] is the strongest identifier for our tribe. It is given to a young man who's come of age after that they go out into the world," he explained in a 2020 interview with Baltimore Outloud. "It's almost to help you travel through life with safety and to bring you home from these journeys. Iban men around the whole world, back in the day, if you came across people in the jungles and they had these identifying tattoos on them, it would be easily recognizable."

Golding's thigh tattoo is his largest, and he actually got it while filming his travel show for Discovery. He was asked about the piece of art in a June 2021 interview on The Ellen Degeneres Show, telling the host that it took roughly 10 hours to complete the tattoo, which he got while in the jungle visiting with tribe members. "It's traditionally done in the technique of sort of tapping," he explained. "So, you have like a bamboo rod with essentially a needle at the end of it. They dip it in ink, one guy stretches your skin and rubs your skin until its raw, and the other one just hits you with a mallet."

He originally refused to audition for "Crazy Rich Asians"

Golding is a megastar nowadays, but had no plans to act back when he was a television host. In numerous interviews, Golding was referred to "Crazy Rich Asians" director Jon M. Chu by an accountant in the movie's Malaysian production office. After watching a bunch of his travel clips, Chu was sold on Golding -– but Golding was not quite sold on acting. "I originally refused to audition, turning it down three times," he told the Evening Standard in January 2020. "I didn't think I'd get it so I thought there was no point but the director had seen my travel show and was like, 'What are you doing? You are this character.'"

When he was on "The View" in July 2018, Golding said that "I wasn't in that frame of mind. And a lot in life, I've sort of designated my mindset to being something –- and at that point I was a presenter." He went on to explain that he originally did not have the confidence to take on the part. "When the offer came, they were like, 'Oh, do you want to audition for this role? It's going to be a big movie.' I was like, 'Oh, I've heard of it. It's going to be fantastic, but it's for someone else, someone else who is going to bring the A-game, who's a legitimate actor, who the studio's going to gamble on' Because it's such a big deal," he said. No word on what got him to change his mind, but fans of the actor are surely glad he did.

Henry Golding has struggled with his identity due to his mixed background

Golding was born in Malaysia, but his family left the country for Surrey, England when he was eight years old. With a British father and a Malaysian mom, he never felt like he fit in with the other kids in school. "Casual racism was rife back then because there weren't many Asians. We were called every racist name under the sun," he told The Guardian in a September 2020 interview. Golding maintains that things improved as he assimilated, but that he felt different from his peers. Upon his return to Malaysia at 21, Golding also felt inadequate –- he told the Guardian he felt "embarrassed" at not being able to speak the language -– and out of place.

Despite the outside noise — including claims that he "wasn't Asian enough" for "Crazy Rich Asians" – Golding meets criticism head-on. "The one thing that I learned very young was to own my identity. And, I knew, I'm Asian through and through. There's nothing I needed to prove," Golding said on The View in 2018. "So, when that came up, I wasn't heartbroken or just sort of shied away from it. I think the best way to fight that sort of stuff is opening a dialogue. And that's what we did."

Still, Golding has admitted that outcry over his casting in various movies has sadly reignited some of his youthful identity struggles. "I'm always the outsider," Golding said in an interview with Inverse. "I feel like an outsider now. I wasn't Asian enough for 'Crazy Rich Asians.' I'm not white enough for 'Snake Eyes.' People can say what they want and have a minuscule view of the world. But we are global."

He is an advocate for more racially-open casting

Given his struggles with casting blowback for "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins" (the character was a white, blue-eyed blonde in the comics), it is not surprising that Golding has talked publicly about how he feels casting should be racially-open when possible. "I'm never going to play my exact race, 100 percent of the time, ever. Unless there's a half-Malaysian, half-British character, then yeah, okay," he said in a November 2020 IndieWire interview. "I do understand when it comes to having the casting directors, the production team gone through the right challenges and finding the right people for the role. There's that kind of discussion. But for me, I will never be your A-plus choice for a Chinese character, or an Indonesian character, or an Asian character. In general, I'm not going to be 100 percent right, but I am sure as hell going to play the hell out of that role."

Golding knows that few characters are going to be a perfect racial and cultural fit with his unique identities, and so he sees the ability to play outside this boxed-in preconception of who he is as especially important. He also isn't interested in having to explain his identity to casting directors. "I'm gonna concentrate on being the actor, rather than the representative of a particular race," he told the Independent in November 2019. "I want to be able to blur that line and not have to think about it. Be proud of it still, but not have to justify why I am the way I am. I'm Asian as well as British. There's no need to over-explain it."

Golding did his own stunts for "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins"

If his travel adventure show and penchant for tattoos did not convince you that Golding likes a thrill, then consider the fact that he did most of his own stunts for his role as Snake Eyes. And sure, he had a stunt double, but the fighting was all him. "We did all the choreography," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Of course, we had amazing stunt teams doing like the big jumps from [building to building], which we physically and financially can't afford to do because if something goes wrong, I'm not Tom Cruise [laughs]. So we worked so hard to make sure that every single bit of fight choreography we could do ourselves."

To be able to pull off the fight scenes, Golding trained for two months prior to the start of the film, specifically focusing on sword work with choreographer Kenji Tanigaki. "We really [focused] on getting fluid with the choreography and that style of movement with the katana," he said. In a separate interview, he detailed how his days included five hours of choreography and training with the fight coordinator and stunt team, as well as an extra hour and a half of private physical training (in addition to hours of script work).

In an Entertainment Weekly interview, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura detailed the behind-the-scenes debate that went into Golding's casting (he was, after all, known as a romantic comedy actor). "He has a lot of physicality, and what I have learned over doing many, many action pictures is you can teach people action if they're athletic. If they're not athletic, good luck," di Bonaventura said. "You can tell almost by the way somebody walks. Henry had it — and also had the drive to do it, which was important to us because you're trying to do something with the 'G.I. Joe' franchise which hasn't been done."

He feels changed by fatherhood

As happens with many first-time parents, Golding can't seem to get enough of talking about his new kid, daughter Lyla, who was born at the end of March 2021. "Every morning it's like she comes up with something new, something exciting. She makes this look at you or she smiles. Every day is a joy. It's crazy," he told People magazine. "You do feel the sense of overprotectiveness already. I'm sure it gets worse!" While Golding and Lo originally thought about keeping Lyla's image off of social media, they changed their minds (via ABC News), and so the cute baby has been a staple on Golding's Instagram

Beyond the joy she is bringing into the lives of Golding and his wife, Lyla is also changing the way Golding operates. "Selflessness is something that really comes to the forefront," he explained in an interview with USA Today. "You're not living for yourself anymore. It's not your dreams and your goals. Yes, you take those into account, but right now it's making sure that she has everything that she wants and is able to do everything and anything that she puts her mind to."

He chooses his roles based on whether they are something he would like to watch

Golding had many opportunities after the success of "Crazy Rich Asians," and while every actor has different criteria for examining whether a role is the right fit for them, it all seems pretty simple for him. "I always say I just want to be in movies that I would love to watch on the big screen. Something fun or challenging. And so it's really about the material and the filmmakers and the cast," he told the Los Angeles Times in a July 2021 interview.

Golding responds well to roles that offer some sort of new challenge or experience. He acknowledged this in an MTV Australia interview about his role in "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins," saying he was drawn to "the challenge of the physicality of it all." He also liked the idea of starring as a lead in a big-budget action flick –- a genre he loves -– which ultimately meant that accepting the role was a natural choice that needed little rumination. "Every actor's dream is to lead a studio film like this, and so those chances are one in 100, one in a million even. To be able to even be considered for something like this, I knew that if the offer was there, I would dedicate my entire energy and concentration to getting it right," he said in an interview with Complex.

That is not to say that Golding is only interested in massive combat movies, as he has clearly been aiming for variety in his choices –- and that will continue into the future. "We just finished [the Jane Austen adaptation] 'Persuasion' over in London for Netflix," he told the Los Angeles Times. "And that was a project that I was like, 'Man, this would be so fun to be in a period drama.' And the cast was great."

Henry Golding developed many new hobbies during the pandemic

There are two types of people –- those who took their downtime during the COVID-19 pandemic to explore new things and learn new skills, and the rest of us. Golding is one of those rare humans who falls into the former category. The actor took up multiple new hobbies, exploring everything from mountain biking to surfing, and working on his gaming skills (per USA Today).

On top of all of his new skills, Golding says that the best thing COVID-19 taught him was the importance of connecting with loved ones. "Friends and family are so important in life. I think spending quality time with them when you can –- and whilst you can –- is a good one," he told MTV Australia. He also talked about the downtime in a separate July 2021 interview with the Los Angeles Times, explaining that he and his wife finally had time to relax together –- something they had not been able to do since his meteoric rise to fame.

He is passionate about photography

Golding may have learned a number of new skills while social distancing, but some of his other passions run deeper. Photography, for example, is a long-held hobby of Golding's and something that he truly values. "It's like therapy," he once told a GQ reporter of a visit to Venice Beach to take photos. In a more recent GQ feature from July 2021 (posted as a video on YouTube) when Golding ran through a list of 10 things he could not go without, photography played a central role. "My number one essential for wherever I go, wherever I travel –- a camera," he said, before launching in to the specific cameras he owns and how much he loves taking pictures.

On his Instagram account, Golding has a permanent story category dedicated to 35mm film shots. His photos are gorgeous, and our only complaint is that they are featured far too rarely.

His surname has interesting origins

Golding has discussed his ethnic and cultural identities in many interviews, but he has not often commented upon his surname and where it comes from. That said, it has come up at least once –- in an interview with the New Zealand Herald back in 2018. "Golding is really darn Jewish, isn't it? he jokingly asked the reporter, acknowledging a common question he gets about his last name.

It turns out that there is an interesting –- though unverified –- story about that name. "My grandfather during the war was in London and as the story goes, he was possibly adopted by a Jewish family by that name," he told the publication. "Out of respect he took on their name and it was passed down. So, I'm proud to be an honorary Jew." While we can't exactly authenticate this account, it makes for an interesting and touching story.

Henry Golding was a foster dad – for a dog

Before becoming an actual dad, Golding first became a foster parent -– for a lucky puppy –- and he has actress Olivia Munn to thank for it. Munn works for Wag!, a pet care service, and it was through her connections that she was able to find Golding his foster dog, Stella (via People), a pit bull rescue that was placed with Golding's family through START Animal Rescue. On March 31, 2020, the star wrote about the family's newest addition on Instagram, posting "So today was a huge day at the Golding household, we became foster parents for this little pup Stella. Sadly with COVID 19, a lot of the adoption shelters still need to find homes for these beauties, what better way to share your home in quarantine than with a loving fuzzball."

Stella is a gorgeous dog, with rich brown fur and white spots on her chest and paws. Unfortunately, she was embroiled in a mini-scandal when she attacked a smaller dog and the owner posted about it online. And while the owner did not have kind things to say about Golding's demeanor, TMZ reported that Golding did offered to pay the dog's medical bills. Despite her public bruhaha, Stella seemed to bounce back quickly, turning up in the tabloids on a walk a month later. She has not made any appearances on his Instagram (or in the rags!) since around that time, so it is unclear where Stella is now. We can only hope she found a forever home.

He's up for a "Crazy Rich Asians" sequel

Reporters love asking Golding about when there will be a sequel to his breakout hit movie "Crazy Rich Asians." And, as it turns out, Golding is equally as into the idea –- not just willing to do it, but actively hoping for it to come to fruition. "We've all kept quite close, and we hope there's going to be a follow-up to the movie! I think it's just a matter of time and getting the writing in place," he told Today in June 2021. "We need it to happen! It's necessary. We need to finish the story and go back to Singapore and see what happens to the Youngs. Let's hope there's a lot of movie magic happening. Once the script is done, I think we'll all find out whether it's going to be a go."

In an April 2021 interview with US Weekly, he admitted "there's definitely room for more," before adding that there are three books in the series, which means more stories to be told. Even though he is totally into the idea, Golding does not see the sequel in the immediate future. In fact, he has said he thinks that a sequel to "Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins" will come first (via USA Today).