Hollywood beckons Singapore-based actor-host Henry Golding

In Surviving Borneo, Henry Golding travels to the jungles of Sarawak to undergo a coming-of-age rite of passage for young Iban men.
In Surviving Borneo, Henry Golding travels to the jungles of Sarawak to undergo a coming-of-age rite of passage for young Iban men.PHOTO: DISCOVERY CHANNEL

Before Henry Golding appears in two big Hollywood movies, watch him host the television series, Surviving Borneo

Singapore-based British actor-host Henry Golding cannot quite grasp just how drastically his life is about to change now that he is on his way to becoming a Hollywood star.

The 30-year-old, who had mostly television hosting gigs before this, has been cast as the male lead in two upcoming major Hollywood films: Crazy Rich Asians, the adaptation of Singaporean writer Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel, as well as director Paul Feig's A Simple Favor, in which he co-stars with top actresses Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.

Filming has already wrapped for Crazy Rich Asians, which marks Golding's acting debut, and he is in Toronto to shoot the second movie.

He tells The Straits Times: "I've been told that my life is going to change dramatically and I've been warned many times about that.

"But it's really strange. Coming from such a grounded area in broadcast, where I did travel shows and told human stories in documentaries, it's going to be very strange for me to do the Hollywood thing.

"I can't quite fathom how it's going to be yet, but I'm excited for this new chapter in my life."

He was fielding interviews for what he calls his last TV hosting gig for a while - Discovery Channel's Surviving Borneo, a six-part documentary series in which he explores his Iban heritage.

This series was one of the greatest things I've ever worked on in my life because it was a real test of fortitude and character. This was the perfect swansong in hosting.

HENRY GOLDING

His father is British, while his mother hails from the tribe in Sarawak.

"This series was one of the greatest things I've ever worked on in my life because it was a real test of fortitude and character. This was the perfect swansong in hosting before I transition into acting for the foreseeable future."

In the new series, which premieres on Sunday, he travels to the jungles of Sarawak to undergo the bejalai, a coming-of-age rite of passage for young Iban men. It involves trekking into unfamiliar land and challenging oneself to acquire new skills and knowledge.

In Golding's case, he learnt to forage and hunt for food in the wild. He also received a traditional handtapped tattoo to mark the end of the bejalai.

"This was a very personal journey for me and one that I felt was necessary for me to take. Before I embarked on this, I was going through some turning points in my life," he says.

"I was about to turn 30 and also about to get married. So I decided to take this on, to do this before I go into the next significant chapter of my life. When you're getting married, it's important to try and get the selfishness out of the way and this journey helped me with that."

He tied the knot with ItalianTaiwanese TV host and yoga instructor Liv Lo, 31, in August last year.

It turns out that this journey of self-discovery also had a big part to play in pushing him to take on the role in Crazy Rich Asians.

"At the end of the bejalai, I became hyper-focused and was very comfortable in my own skin. I knew where I needed to be and that led me to accept the role," he says.

"In the past, I would have questioned myself more, especially diving into something so big. But after the journey, I felt a sense of clarity and calm."

Although there are still plenty of unknowns as he navigates the world of acting for the first time, he is certain of one thing - that he will continue living in Singapore for now.

"My wife and I both love it here, so we're definitely staying put here for a while. I'll go to the United States for work when it's necessary, but Singapore is home for us."

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•Surviving Borneo premieres on Discovery Channel (StarHub TV Channel 422, Singtel TV Channel 202) on Sunday at 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'Hosting swansong opened door to acting'. Print Edition | Subscribe