After establishing himself as a credible heartthrob for rom-coms, Henry Golding has embarked on a more adventurous role as he turns into an action star in his latest film Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.
In this reboot, Golding plays the lead role of a skilled martial artist recruited by a Japanese clan called the Arashikage after he saved the life of their heir apparent.
The actor greeted me with a hearty “Mabuhay!” as soon as I joined the Zoom roundtable interview to promote this new film.
His eyes lit up when the topic of greater Asian representation was opened as fans now can look forward to both Snake Eyes and Marvel’s Shang-Chi starring Simu Liu, among other films.
“It is so important to have representation on screen for Asians around the world, let alone, Asian Americans but Southeast Asians, South Asians, you know,” he said, citing Marvel’s announcement that Miss Marvel will be of South Asian descent.
“We keep expanding, we keep building upon it, and it’s a long road to get to and build, but I think we have to start somewhere and to have Asian leads at the forefront of studios, goes to show that we can be represented, but also be successful,” Golding added. “Every time that a person of color gets cast, it’s like a win, you know, and we’re always keeping a tabulation, but it’s going to be a never-ending cause until the industry, sort of flatlines and becomes normality.”
The 34-year-old actor reminded that “Crazy Rich Asians” showed everyone that an all-Asian movie can also be successful at the box office.
“People have been so hungry and people are craving diversity,” he said, adding that there have been many Asian leading men in the past and it is about time to continue giving them lead roles. “We’ve had representation but we haven’t had the highlight we’ve had in modern-day media, in which we deserve. And so now is the turning point now is the time where we can be proud of our heritage.”
Golding said that they did a “phenomenal amount of training” to prepare for the physical demands of the film and praised their fight choreographer, Kenji Tanigaki.
Tanigaki, a stunt coordinator and director on movies like Kill Zone, Legend of Seven Monks and Enter the Fat Dragon, led their two-month stringent training. He also previously worked with Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan.
“He comes from that school of hard knocks. And so for my character in particular Snake Eyes, it was a lot of katana work, a lot of traditional sword techniques,” he revealed, adding that they did four to five hours of choreography every single day, followed by one-on-one private training.
The newly minted action star is proud of his action scenes and said that the cast did 98% of all the stunts and every single bit of choreography including the sword art of katanas.
“Of course, jumping off the side of a building has to be done by braver men,” he added laughing.
Asked about what the producers and director Robert Schwentke’s vision for his attack on the role, Golding deadpanned and said, “they wanted him abnormally handsome, stoic.”
“He’s a guy who’s been through the wringer like he’s fallen on hard times and he’s at a place in his life where he doesn’t understand his being. And he’s driven by motivations in which he thinks are the right ones, but through the journey realizes like, what have I been doing for my entire life,” he shared.
In the end, he said they’ve created a Snake Eyes in which people can see themselves in it: an everyday guy who has dreams and motivations and gets beat down, someone who has faults and has made wrong decisions.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re not completely revamping the character of Snake Eyes, but we’re giving him the definition he deserves. And the life that we believe is behind the mask,” Golding said.
Based on the iconic G.I. Joe character, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is set to open in theaters on July 23. The film also stars Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, Úrsula Corberó as The Baroness, Samara Weaving as Scarlett, Haruka Abe as Akiko, Tahehiro Hira as Kenta and Iko Uwais as Hard Master.