Taking a turn from larger-budget movies such as A Simple Favor and Crazy Rich Asians, actor Henry Golding stars in the intimate film Monsoon.
The movie features Golding as Kit, a young British-Vietnamese man who returns to his birth country for the first time in more than three decades who travels from Saigon to Hanoi in search of a place to scatter his parents' ashes. Along the way, he reconnects with people and forms a special connection with another man: Lewis, played by Parker Sawyers.
Henry Golding: You're in Chicago, right?
Windy City Times: Yes. Have you been here?
HG: Oh, yes. We took a trip down the river. You have a river.
WCT: Yesand a lake.
HG: Yes, from the river to the lake. I heard that I have to experience Chicago in the winter, though. [Laughs] But that's why I live in California.
WCT: I really liked Monsoon, but it's definitely not an opulent movie, like Crazy Rich Asians. Was that intimate feel part of the appeal for you?
HG: I think that was one of the aspects that drew me to the project. There were a few other factors, including how personal and reflective Kit's journey is. I've had a similar experience of going to Malaysia, having grown up in the UK and having this sense of disconnect with the motherland. And having enjoyed [director] Hong Khaou's film Lilting, I hungered for his pedigree of filmmaking.
WCT: It's also about stretching those acting muscles and increasing your versatility, isn't it?
HG: Yes, exactly. I had just done Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor [which were both out in 2018], but nothing had been out in the public yet so I had free rein and no pre-judgment. So I got the part through a rigorous audition process, and I felt like I earned my place.
WCT: What was it like filming in the streets of Vietnam?
HG: I don't know if you've been or Asiaor Vietnam, specificallybut there's a cacophony of noise and bustle and people and smells. At that point, I had been to Vietnam about four or five times so I knew what to expect.
Also, I'm a huge Anthony Bourdain fan, and we got the sad news that he had passed away whilst we were in Hanoi. Bourdain had eaten with Barack Obama at a spot there [Bun Cha Huong Lien restaurant], so I went to that restaurant; where they ate was in a glass case and there were little flowers.
WCT: Did you have any reluctance about taking on the role of Kit, considering the relatively small number of LGBTQ roles in movies?
HG: I think I knew that when I took this role, it would be a topic of conversation, for sure. Previous to me being an actor, I was a hairdresser for five yearsand I was surrounded by strong, supremely proud gay men, and they have been some of my greatest mentors. So I went forward [with the role], knowing I had a broad perspective and I approached it with a sense of respect. I went through an audition in which Hong saw hundreds of men, gay and straight.
This character doesn't want to be defined by his sexuality, and the story is about his soul and identity. That was crucial in me accepting the role.
WCT: And Kit seems to have such an easy chemistry with Lewis.
HG: Hmmmyeah. Parker is such a character. And you're right; we had such a huge amount of trust. We trusted each other and we trusted the situation we were in. It felt so natural, in a way.
WCT: Was there one scene in particular that was more difficult to film than any other?
HG: There's a scene with me on the back of a motorbike going over a bridge at night. It's a beautiful scene, but that was probably the most difficult scene because I was terrified of the traffic. We had these huge construction trucks blasting past us.
WCT: So what do you want people to take away from the film that's basically a journey about discovery and identity?
HG: I think it's important to have conversations with your parents. Sometimes we need to have those tough conversations. You should get answers, because at one point it will be too lateand you won't be able to get those answers. How different would things have been if Kit had forced his parents to talk about their history and get an understanding of why they left Vietnam?
Monsoon will premiere Friday, Nov. 13, on virtual cinemas (such as Music Box-at-Home presentation through Music Box Theatre) and Premium Video. See musicboxtheatre.com/films/monsoon .