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The travel host-turned-actor — who played heartthrob Nick Young in the groundbreaking film starring an all-Asian cast — explained to The Hollywood Reporter why Paul Feig’s neo-noir comedy A Simple Favor felt like the “perfect next step” in his career.
“It’s such contrasting characters. You couldn’t get a nicer guy in Nick Young and then a more mysterious man, who is unsure of his relationship between two women, in Sean Townsend,” Golding told THR of his new character at A Simple Favor‘s Monday premiere in New York. “It really was a good test of breadth in terms of my acting skills. It was the perfect next step for me.”
He added: “This is a good way of showing people that it wasn’t just a flash in the pan with Crazy Rich Asians. I’m here to carve out a strong career in the leading-man space.”
Asked what kind of genre he’d like to tackle next, Golding said that he’s keeping his options open. Although, he emphasized that he’s “physically” prepared to take on action movies. “I’m going to be testing waters in all genres. I’m really up for the challenge physically to go into sci-fi action, thinking-man’s action,” he explained. “There’s so many places, personally, that I would love as a film fan to explore.”
For Feig’s part, he couldn’t have been more thrilled to direct Golding in his first project post-Crazy Rich Asians. “I love Henry Golding so much. He’s the greatest guy and the nicest man in the world. And he works so hard and he’s just a team player,” Feig said of working with the star. “He’s so elegant. I feel like I’ve got my own personal Cary Grant now, so it’s very exciting.”
Feig said he contacted Golding about joining the cast of A Simple Favor — which stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively — shortly after the actor wrapped Crazy Rich Asians last year. According to the filmmaker, his wife, Laurie Feig, a huge fan of the book franchise by author Kevin Kwan, made him aware of the “charismatic newcomer” who beat out thousands of actors to win the coveted role of Nick.
After watching a few of his travel videos online, Paul Feig knew Golding was the “perfect guy” to also play Sean Townsend — the handsome writer trapped in a near-fatal love triangle with Lively’s Emily Nelson and Kendrick’s Stephanie Smothers.
“I looked him up and found all these travel videos that he used to host and he was so charismatic and funny and charming. He was the perfect guy. I was like, ‘He’s Sean. He’s the Sean role!'” Feig recalled. “But then I called [Crazy Rich Asians director] Jon Chu and said, ‘You just worked with him. Is he a good actor?’ And he said, ‘He’s the best. He’s worked so hard and he’s so directable.’ From then, I was just in with Henry.”
With Golding’s star power on the rise, his image was recently added to the promotional artwork for A Simple Favor. He was also upgraded to first-name-only basis alongside co-stars Kendrick and Lively for the new poster. In an unprecedented move, Golding was flown by Lionsgate from Singapore to Los Angeles on Aug. 31 for the last-minute shoot, at which THR has an exclusive first look.
Now, Feig is hoping other filmmakers and Hollywood creatives follow his lead by continuing to cast men of Asian descent in leading-man roles beyond Crazy Rich Asians and its forthcoming sequels. “They have to. Movies have to be a mirror on our society. Our society is beautifully diverse and beautifully inclusive,” he told THR. “Everybody’s there, so to not show that on the screen is a false portrayal of what life is these days.”
A Simple Favor hits theaters Sept. 14.