The wild ascent of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ star Henry Golding

In this Aug 4, 2018 photo, actor Henry Golding poses for a portrait at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. to promote his film "Crazy Rich Asians." (Photo by Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Henry Golding was working as a travel show host in Singapore when news broke that “Crazy Rich Asians” was going to be a movie. The city, he remembers, was abuzz about a major Hollywood production coming to Southeast Asia.

“I thought, ‘Wow that’s going to be amazing…for someone else,'” Golding, 31, said recently. “I was so excited for someone else, it was weird.”

Even with his chiseled good looks, undeniable charisma, acting ambitions and comfort in front of a camera after nearly a decade of hosting shows for ESPN Asia, BBC and Discovery Channel Asia, he never imagined that he would ultimately end up being in, let alone co-leading the film — his first ever — as the debonair, Oxford-educated heir Nick Young.

“I knew I wanted to be an actor I just figured they wouldn’t want to take a chance when there are so many amazing actors and all these super handsome male models in China who would translate to acting I’m sure,” Golding said. “And I was like, ‘Man, they’re going to get it and I’m happy for them. But it’s not me.'”

Crazier yet is how Golding got in the running. A studio accountant working in Malaysia had met Golding years ago at a party. He had made enough of an impression on her that she suggested him to a line producer, who then recommended him to director Jon M. Chu, who was nearing the start of production and running out of time to find his Nick.

Chu was intrigued after a deep dive into Golding’s online presence (Instagram, YouTube, the works). He had the look, the right accent and a star quality worthy of a major studio production. The only problem? Golding wasn’t picking up his calls. Undeterred, Chu realized they had a friend in common on Facebook, the venture capitalist Steve Jang who got hold of Golding on vacation in Tokyo and told him to make time for a Skype call with Chu.

“I thought maybe it’s a cameo, maybe it’s a side character,” Golding said. “We get on Skype and he’s like, ‘I want you for Nick.'”

Producer Nina Jacobson knew they’d found the perfect heartthrob to lead this modern-day fairy tale.