We had the very great pleasure of interviewing actor, host, model and all-round star, George Young. After making big waves in Asia as the host of the Million Dollar Money Drop and appearing in Bollywood and a suite of TV series including Casualty, The Pupil, The Brian Jackson Show and Grace, George is set to return to our TV screens in new CW drama Containment (think Outbreak but in a series). You heard it here first…!
Tell us about your new show Containment – who do you play and how does he manage to (not die and) survive episode 1 (spoiler alert!)?
Ha, no spoilers just when I’m going back to film the rest of the series! My job’s still on the line…
The show centers around Atlanta and a deadly epidemic that leaves the powers that be no choice but to enforce a quarantine over a major part of the city. I play Dr Victor Cannerts, a medical researcher at the CDC who makes the initial controversial call for the quarantine, and who is now seeking to find the cause – and hopefully a cure – for the virus.
What are the other members of the cast like?
What’s great is that not only did I get very lucky landing my very first US pilot and it goes to series – I’ve also been lucky with the cast too in that we all get along. We’ve got a chat group going where we all keep each other updated wherever we all are in the world, and where we perform Google Image Wars on each other (where some of us search for each other and post the most embarrassing photo we can find of the other person…not sure if we came up with this game ourselves, but either way: I lose a lot of the time). Lately however the whole chat is taken up by rental tips and tricks as we all manically try and sort out accommodation in Atlanta before we head over for five months.
You’ve gone from being a qualified lawyer in the UK to a bona fide US drama series actor via gigs as a talk show host, actor and model in Asia. You always hear about actors having to be resilient because big breaks can take a while to come. What’s your Hollywood journey been like?
It’s been a very roundabout way of getting there! But the journey so far has been amazing. As you say, I’ve got to do so many fun things in this career: Bollywood (which I didn’t realise was on so many people’s bucket lists until I got the role), and such a variety of fantastic projects and opportunities in Asia that I shudder to think just wouldn’t have happened if not for me getting out of my office chair when I qualified as a lawyer and going out to get them.
This year was the first year I ventured to the US with a work visa in tow, and yes – as a lot of my peers remind me – I got very lucky in that I landed a pilot, and that pilot happened to be an amazing project that we now get the opportunity to explore in a series!
My first foray into the madness that is the US pilot season was last year, where I didn’t have a visa but was under the impression it would all be sorted if I got far enough into the audition process, only to get far into the audition process and be offered a contract contingent on a final round, only for it to be snatched away due to – yep – not having my visa yet! Was heartbreaking but things worked out so I really can’t complain too much.
Who has been the most inspiring person (celebrity or otherwise) you have met on your journey and why?
I’ve met lots of people who’ve inspired me, and a lot of them have been women come to think of it. My Singapore Agency boss Irene Ang (of FLY Entertainment), who you should really do a profile piece on as she does everything and has carved her own industry within Singapore and beyond with her bare hands. My Singapore manager Hui Ling Lim, who doesn’t take any crap from anyone, managing to do this in a way that is personable and effective, and my wife Janet Hsieh, who can put up with me AND make a hugely successful career out of just being who she is (which just so happens to be a multilingual, highly-sociable, violin-maestro, with an infectious sense of adventure and a laugh that’s almost dangerously addictive).
I would mention my mum here too, but then I would also have to mention my dad, which would ruin the whole women-who-inspire-me theme that I started with in this answer! Sorry mum and dad no mentions for you here. Apart from that last mention.
There is a bit of a female movement going on in Hollywood at the moment (eg. equal pay for leading roles, no heels in Cannes, more movies targeting a female audience). Is this noticeable when you’re in the industry itself? Do you ever hear about the Bechdel test?
Yes I’ve heard of the Bechdel Test – as much as it’s a shame that there seems to be a necessity for a measuring stick to ensure there’s a female skew to what the film and TV industry produces, I’m happy to see that there’s a louder collective voice putting the message out there that there needs to be more of a balance. One day it just won’t be an issue and we won’t need tests like these.
I also think it’s ridiculous that there’s even a question about equal pay. If you do the same job, and the role is of equal billing, then you get equal pay. When you’re looking at Hollywood and leading roles – it’s a question then of ensuring that there are roles of equal billing for women. And that’s where we come full circle in this answer and go back to the Bechdel Test!
As for heels – I just went to a bunch of parties during Comic Con and I have to say most people were still getting their heels on (and there was lots of comments from actresses about sore feet too…I don’t know how you manage it I’d complain ALL the time).
I’ve often said that the only difference we’ve both really felt post-nuptials is that we’re both wearing more jewelry. We’re both still apart a lot of the time due to the locations that our work brings us – but I can now add that I do feel a sense of confidence and contentment that wasn’t there before we tied the knot. Us having the ceremony and announcing it to the world has established us as a team and a partnership, and yes: some priorities have changed, in that we’re exploring the options of how we’d ever raise a family when we work so far apart from each other all the time!
And finally, your best piece of advice for others who want to follow their dream (cheesy but true!)?
You want my answer to be cheesy but true, or the question is cheesy but true?! I’m often cheesy so that’s easy for me: go somewhere quiet – literally or just in your headspace – where no one else is able to distract you with their thoughts and feelings about you and how you should manage your life, and think about what you really want to do; or at least ponder what you want to explore out there. Then go explore.
And some quick fire questions:
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
I want that role it’s perfect for me!
The one thing you should always have on the red carpet:
Night in or night out?
Night in with computer games or a television series.
Your guilty pleasure:
computer games and television series
Best track to get you in character:
Depends on the character, but safe choices would be Mmmbop by Hanson. Or any boyband song from the late 90s to early 2000’s.
Who’s funnier – Janet or George?
I’ll go ahead and speak for both of us here and say it’s definitely me.
First photo credit – Joel Low Photography, Wedding photo credit – Nick Onken