Buro exclusive: Interview with George Young

Next stop, Hollywood

Buro exclusive: Interview with George Young
Set to play Dr Victor Cannerts in the American television series Containment, we spoke to George Young about his exciting new role, racial profiling, and getting married in Antarctica

He's a goofball, this George Young.

Sure, the tall, Greek-Chinese looker cuts a fine figure modelling Ermenegildo Zegna Couture's Fall collection, but in between takes, the British actor goofed around and flashed his best Blue Steel impression from Zoolander — luckily for him, he is really, really, really good-looking. When I spoke to him during hair and make-up, he willingly put on a Valley girl accent, shared his interest in drag fantasies (for a role, of course) and taunted me about the fact that I never watched him in his role in Pangdemonium's Swimming With Sharks, staged last year.

I've got a bone to pick with him too. After my first interview with him in 2013, he uploaded a less than flattering image of myself mid-interview on his Facebook page. "I'm going to take as many unflattering shots of you as possible," I shot at him. "Revenge!" he snarled in jest.

A lot has changed since we first met two years ago. The 35-year old's now married, for one — to Taiwanese American travel host Janet Hsieh. The duo tied the knot in Antarctica earlier this year, trumping all other destination weddings. And his familiar face is now even more recognisable — the taxi driver who sent him to this shoot started asking questions about Young's 'million dollar wedding'. He went along — but no, the wedding wasn't that costly.

George Young

Related story: George Young stars in a new American drama

On the career front, the Fly Entertainment Artiste will be a series regular in Containment, a drama to be broadcast on The CW in early 2016. We caught Young at a good time — he had just landed in Singapore the night before after spending time in Los Angeles doing promotions for Containment. Back here for a few months, he'll return to America to film the rest of the series. He's also now an 'Alien of Extraordinary Ability'; an American visa classification that was finally granted to him this year. "It's like being an X-man," he gushes. "I feel like a mutant."

When he shares more on his new role and what he's learned from Hollywood so far, his face changes. His signature cocked brows furrow down, and his face brims with passion while talking about his craft. Praising fellow cast members and admiring Los Angeles' working culture, we found Young to be the same likeable character we were introduced to years before — just more Hollywood savvy, but still served with generous helpings of humble pie.

What are the differences between the working culture in Los Angeles and Singapore?
Everything about filming in Los Angeles is very Hollywood — the screen and camera tests are like those in a movie, with all these marks and lighting. I was nervous, but pretended I had done this all before. Aside from everything around it being so Hollywood, when we got to set and began filming, it's like anywhere — Singapore, England, Bollywood. There's a lot of craziness around it, but once you're there on the set, you're doing your thing and that's comforting to know.

Maybe without the experience in Singapore, I may have just choked that last line in the audition and bawled

How has working in Singapore for the past few years set you up for Hollywood?
Everything here (Singapore) is world-class. It's great that Singapore has brought me up. I've had an education in Singapore in terms of the stuff I've done here to bring me to that point. Maybe without the experience in Singapore, I may have just choked that last line in the audition and bawled. But I think it taught me to just stay in it.

How do you think The CW, who's known for making teen and fantasy shows like Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries and Smallville align with Containment?
They're very good at those fantasy and superhero elements. This is taking some of that family from The CW, like Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries) and Claudia Black (The Originals) and mixing them with other actors such as David Gyasi (Interstellar) and me, from Singapore. It's taking all these elements and making a new show, which is grounded in fact rather that fiction or fantasy. It's going to be interesting to see how The CW's audiences will react, and whether it'll bring in new audiences as well.

George Young

How will audiences connect with Containment?
What I found interesting was even though we're talking about the virus itself, we're also talking about social media and news, and how that spreads. It's very current to what's happening now, with the Ebola crisis. There's a political element, with the public and government's views on it.

We've seen The CW hiring then low-profile actors and catapulting them into stardom, such as Blake Lively in Gossip Girl and Ian Somerhalder in The Vampire Diaries. Do you think you're going to be the next big thing?
Um, yes. No! [laughs]  

You once shared that while you were working in the UK, you were never considered "Asian or white enough" for roles. How's the casting landscape like in Los Angeles when it comes to bi-racial actors?
Especially now, it's a good time to be there (Los Angeles). In reality, more people are mixed and of different backgrounds, and they're very much into the diversity element there. It was a good time for me. They don't know where I'm from. You can have fun with it.

Well, you're playing a British guy now.
Back in the day, in the UK, they compartmentalised it a lot. It was either you were Asian or not. And that's where George Young came from. My surname's actually 'Ng', and I wanted something with 'Ng' in it. Thing is, when I chose George Young, I didn't think it through because I'm the 13th George Young in IMDB. It's also taken a while to go up the Google search — now I'm thankfully there. 

George Young

How can someone be a better actor?
I'll tell you when im a better actor. There's always room for improvement. It's about trying to do more quality work, up'ing my game, and learning from other people. When I was doing Grace for HBO Asia, I was watching Russell Wong, a seasoned actor, just to see how he does it. For Containment, you have David Gyasi who's done two Christopher Nolan films as well as Cloud Atlas with the Wachowski brothers. I definitely watched him closely to see what I could learn.

What's been your greatest challenge in your career so far?
Getting this role. Just going through hoops you have to jump through, and going through the audition process. Here in Singapore, you do one or two auditions and you get the role. But for regular roles on a television series in America, it's one audition after the other, then it's callbacks, studio tests, network tests. Even when you're finally cast, you're not safe.

You never know where it's going to go in terms of the show. It's about a virus, who knows what's going to happen. I've heard of people finding out that their character's dead when going through the script at a table read. Or sometimes a pilot gets filmed and goes to series, but you get re-cast. I've heard stories, and I've friends who that has happened to.

Like Lisa Kudrow. She was cast as Roz and filmed in Frasier's pilot episode but was re-cast.
Yeah! She talked about that and how she was gutted and thinking of quitting. Lisa Kudrow ended up doing 10 years on Friends, and what was it, earning a million per episode?

That could be you next. You told us that the role you had to turn down last year never went to series.
Soon, never know. I'll do more million-dollar weddings. The North Pole next!

George Young

Photography: Vanessa Caitlin
Fashion direction: Norman Tan
Styling assistance: Pakkee Tan
Hair and makeup: Marie Genevieve Jessie Soh 
Cover image: George wears an Ermenegildo Zegna Couture blazer and silk scarf 

Text: Adibah Isa

Photo: Vanessa Caitlin

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