Henry Golding feels ‘sense of displacement’ over British-Malaysian heritage

Henry Golding has said he was drawn to the lead role in Monsoon by feeling neither British or Asian enough to fit into either society.

The British-Malaysian actor, 33, said he shared a “sense of displacement” with the character of Kit, a young British man who struggles with his cultural identity as he travels to his birth country of Vietnam for the first time in 30 years.

Kit was six when he and his family escaped Saigon as refugees following the Vietnam War and he is no longer familiar with the country or able to speak his native language.

The film, written and directed by Hong Khaou, follows Kit as he meets Lewis, played by Parker Sawyers, a love interest from the US whose father fought in the Vietnam War.

Speaking during an online Q&A hosted by Bafta, Golding addressed his reasons for accepting the role.

He said: “I think the sense of displacement. It really reflected a lot of my personal journey from growing up and being born in Malaysia to a British father and a Malaysian mother, moving back to the UK, not ever feeling British enough, never feeling Asian enough.

“And so whenever I was in both those parts of the world, it was like, ‘Who am I?’ This search for identity, and I think that’s something that Kit goes through.

“He has a premise of going back to Vietnam to find a resting place for his parents’ ashes and tries to get a better grasp of sort of his history and his being.

“And I think as we all would, he arrives with a bit of bravado and trying to convince himself, ‘I am Vietnamese. I’m going to come to this city and now it’s going to feel like I’m coming home’.

“But often it isn’t the case. When he can’t speak the language, when you’ve never been in the culture like the Vietnamese culture and growing up in the UK, it’s such a crescendo of noise and smell and cultural differences.”

He added: “That was what really drew me to the role is his struggle for his inner identity. He has a lot of turmoil. He has a lot of family issues which he was never able to talk through with his parents.”

Golding said having “identifiers” in the character, such as his internal struggles, made him feel he could “give truth” to the part.

The Crazy Rich Asians star is expecting his first child with his wife, Taiwanese fitness influencer Liv Lo, who he married in 2016.

She announced the news on Instagram in November last year, writing: “Such immense joy this little one has brought us already. Now we get to share it with you.”