Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding has said he might “never come to a conclusion” about whether it’s acceptable for straight actors to play gay characters.
The issue of straight actors playing queer roles on-screen has been a source of contention within the film industry, and within the wider LGBT+ community, for years.
Numerous straight actors have won awards and accolades for taking on queer roles – but many LGBT+ people within the industry have pointed out that access to film roles is not equal across the board.
Henry Golding thinks there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to straight actors playing gay characters.
Henry Golding, who recently played British-Vietnamese character Kit in Monsoon, has been asked repeatedly whether he thinks it’s acceptable for straight actors to play gay roles – and he has now said he might never settle on a single view.
Speaking to EW, Golding said the debate around straight actors playing gay roles is “an extremely layered conversation”.
“I think it really comes down to understanding each and every angle when it comes to a topic like that,” he said.
“It’s understanding what the struggles have been, why there’s a camp that says gay characters should only be played by gay people versus the camp that says actors should be able to mimic or become who their character is.
“Representation needs to be truthful on screen, but then does that limit artistry? It’s a merry-go-round of conversation and I think neither really… how should I put it… weight are right, neither are wrong.”
Golding said that Monsoon director Hong Khaou considered “hundreds of Asian men” of all sexualities for the part before settling on the Crazy Rich Asians star.
The actor said that he felt instantly connected to the screenplay when he read it as he was able to draw parallels between the character’s journey and his own. Golding was born in Malaysia but grew up in the UK, before moving back to Malaysia in his 20s to experience his “motherland”.
Representation needs to be truthful on screen, but then does that limit artistry?
“I felt that same feeling of alienation of not feeling welcomed as you’d imagine yourself to be,” he said.
He added: “Do you not take that into account, or do you go with an actor just because he follows the sexuality of the character? I don’t know. It’s a very interesting conversation.”
Speaking to Digital Spy in September, Henry Golding said he was initially unsure if he should take the role of a gay character when he read the screenplay.
“I used to be a hairdresser, so my environment as a young man was with all of these mentors of strong, gay, independent men,” Golding said at the time.
“So I understand, and I respect the culture so much.
“But there’s only so much you can say to somebody and justify a straight man taking a gay role.”