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Henry Golding defends his casting in 'Crazy Rich Asians'

"How Asian do you have to be to be considered Asian?"

By Lydia Chan | Published: 3 Nov 2017

Henry defends role
Photo: clarence.aw/Instagram

While most were thrilled when Malaysian actor Henry Golding was cast in the highly anticipated Crazy Rich Asians, others were quick to rain on the happy parade, questioning his Asian ethnicity.

Henry told Entertainment Weekly that the controversy over him winning the role felt "quite hurtftul."

"For me, it was almost like being kind of stabbed in the back," he said. "I was like, 'Aren't we meant to be in this boat together? Aren't we meant to strive together for something bigger than these boundaries that we're putting on ourselves instead of bullying each other?"

Here's the back story: when Crazy Rich Asians got the green light for the film adaptation, director Jon M. Chu knew he wanted an all-Asian cast. For the lead role of Nick Young, a filthy-rich Singaporean who studied in Oxford, Jon knew it had to be a "charming, leading man" who had "the English accent." Henry, who's of British and Sarawakian descent, and who grew up in England, won the lead role – he's pretty much a perfect fit.

One of the people who criticised the casting choice is Korean-American actress Jamie Chung. She wanted a role in the film, but knew that the director wanted "ethnically Chinese" actors, which she obviously isn't. However, she was sympathetic of the decision, until she found out that Henry was cast as Nick.

"OK. I'm going to say it. That is some bulls**t. Where do you draw the line to be ethnically conscious? But there's so many loopholes so I kind of get screwed. I don't mean to sound jaded. There are plenty of roles for me," she said to CBS News in April. She later admitted on Instagram that she "took it personally and it's so silly. [...] It goes both ways. It just frustrating to lose a job or not have a shot at it [because] of your race."

Henry, who stars alongside Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh in the movie, pointed out the major flaw in defining if someone is Asian enough.

"People were like, 'This guy's half-Asian, he's half-white, he's not even full Asian,' and it comes to, like, how Asian do you have to be to be considered Asian?" he said. "I've lived 16, 17 years of my life in Asia, and that's most of my life. I was born in Asia, I've lived cultures that are synonymous with Asian culture, but it's still not Asian enough for some people. Where are the boundaries? Where are the lines drawn for saying that you cannot play this character because you're not fully Asian?"

Preach, Henry!

Just putting it out there, Asia includes dozens of nations, and its people are diverse AF and can look completely different from one country to the next. So really, when you say "Asian", which 'look' are you really referring to?

Related: The first pictures from 'Crazy Rich Asians' are here to make your day
Related: Exclusive: Henry Golding on living in the wilderness and 'Crazy Rich Asians'


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