Henry Golding had a head-turning starring role in the blockbuster hit Crazy Rich Asians. Since, he's been reaping the rewards, knocking one project after the other out of the park. But this fall Monsoon, his latest project, releases and he's playing Kit, a Vietnamese man who returns to his home country after fleeing as a child. But Kit is gay.
In the film, Kit left Ho Chi Minh City as a child n the wake of the Vietnam-American War. After the death of his parents, he returned to the city to spread their ashes. A trailer teases a romantic interest in Lewis, a character played by Parker Sawyer, showing clips of what seems to be a sex scene. But now Golding is answering lingering questions over why he would take the role.
"From my point of view, with this particular role, it was the fact that his journey wasn’t hinged on the fact he is gay,” the straight actor told Attitude in a new cover story. "It's almost like, yes, he's a young gay man. but the bigger issue is who he is as a person".
Golding falls within a long line of straight actors taking on gay roles — often the most prominent and most lauded gay rols are taken by straight actors. Over the past decade, this has drawn increased scrutiny with both audiences and gay actors. Many have spoken about how their careers are impacted after coming out.
"What’s happened is that, when someone comes out of the closet, we celebrate them," Billy Eichner told Deadline in a recent, unrelated interview. "We applaud them. We put them on the cover of magazines. We say, thank you for living your truth, and thank you for being brave, and you’re such a role model for our gay kids. And then instantly, that actor gets taken off so many casting lists in the business." The casting lists they do stay on, for the most part, are those for gay roles or projects that want queer appeal. One argument is that if queer actors are only going to be considered for queer roles, they should be the only ones considered there.
"I’m doing this rom com, about a gay male couple that I wrote and I’m starring in for Universal, that Judd Apatow is producing," Eichner said by way of example. "I was privy to casting discussions, and I would see when the casting lists were circulating, about which actors to call in for which role. There were so many straight actors on every list to play gay characters. And then, at the beginning before I raised my voice, for the straight characters in the movie, there were never gay actors on the lists for those roles. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s not a two-way street."
But according to Golding, this role was different.
"I’m going to accept this role because of the journey it represents in this man," he said. "It’s not a journey into his queerness. It’s a journey into his history."
“I feel as though when it comes to important historical figures, characters that are defined by being from the community, you really need to take a moment to think, this is important for the LGBTQ community to be a part of,” he continued.
Golding went on to say that the love scenes were fine with him as "love is love," and that he "hit it off" with Sawyer, who is also not publicly known to be queer.
"It felt so natural and [director Hong Khaou] created a really safe environment on set and that's what you hope for as an actor on any production," he said. And while we're sure that Golding put on another standout performance, it would have been interesting to see what a gay actor could have done in the role.
"I can tell you right now, that a gay actor, a gay person in general, understands the nuances, the idiosyncrasies, and the emotional complexity of playing another gay person, especially a famous gay person, playing another famous gay person, than a straight person does," Eichner, who is playing Paul Lynde in an upcoming project, told Deadline months ago. "And we are never granted the opportunity to bring all of our life experience, as gay people, to the screen, and it has become a little bit frustrating to watch that happen over and over and over again."