For anyone who has a problem with the casting of the movie “Crazy Rich Asians,” star Henry Golding has something to say.
The actor and travel host recently responded to criticisms that he, a mixed race man of Asian descent, was not “Asian enough” to play the part of Singaporean main character Nick Young. Mass Appeal said there are “levels to this whitewashing, and it’s not always a white person.” Actress Jamie Chung called the casting “bullshit” before eventually walking back her remarks.
Golding went on the offensive this month, explaining that being Asian is a core part of his identity.
“Am I Asian enough? I was born here, I have lived 17 years of my life here, so for me, I feel more Asian than anything,” the Malaysia-born actor told Variety.
“There are some sour people out there,” he added, “but we should be getting together and fighting for something bigger, rather than Asians against Asians.”
Golding, whose father is British and whose mother is from the Iban tribe in Sarawak, Malaysia, told Variety that he’s lived in Singapore for years and plans to remain for a long time.
He told Entertainment Weekly that he found the controversy over his casting “quite hurtful.”
Criticisms of the movie’s casting point to deeper issues of racial purity, according to Nancy Wang Yuen, chair of Biola University’s sociology department. By deeming Golding “not Asian enough,” she said, people are choosing to ignore his Asian heritage.
That’s the opposite of the way people view Barack Obama, Yuen noted. “The world sees President Obama as black, but his mother is white,” she said, calling it “contradictory to erase Golding’s Asian ancestry while obliterating Obama’s white ancestry.”
Asians made up less than 6 percent of speaking characters in Hollywood films from 2007 to 2016, according to a 2017 USC Annenberg study. Actors of color struggle with opportunities in Hollywood, Yuen said, and people of mixed heritage are no exception.
Indeed, given Golding’s particular background, Yuen suggested he’s very well-suited to the part of Nick Young. And maybe Asian-American actors shouldn’t be held to overly rigid matching of actor’s culture and character’s culture.
“I don’t think that should be a necessity for casting since Asian-American actors experience enough barriers to success in Hollywood,” Yuen said.