Less than a year ago, 31-year-old Briton George Young was deciding whether to move to Hong Kong or Singapore to embark on his career in entertainment. “It would be very competitive for me in Hong Kong because there are many bilingual television personalities there,” he says. “I picked Singapore because English is its main language, and also because it’s a younger, burgeoning market.”
Young was in Taiwan when he met a photographer who advised him to contact Irene Ang, head of Fly Entertainment in Singapore. He did and, shortly afterwards, he landed on these shores. He's now a familiar face on TV – having acted in the legal drama The Pupil and having hosted the Million Dollar Money Drop game show. He can currently be seen checking out Singapore's arts scene on Okto channel's artBITES. And this prolific entertainer does it all – he took to the airwaves as a Lush 99.5FM morning show presenter late last year.
In The Pupil, Young plays Benjamin Wong, an ambitious and sinister lawyer. “As with acting, people usually see only the glamorous part of the legal profession,” he says with irony.
Young had been working as a corporate lawyer in the UK, while pursuing acting courses part-time. “A solicitor’s work is not just about arguing cases in court; there’s a lot of photocopying and proofreading, which can be dry and pedantic.”
Even before that, at the age of 21, Young – born of a Malaysian-Chinese father and a Greek-Cypriot mother – had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “Two of my three younger brothers are autistic, and I studied psychology to help me understand their condition, with the aim of becoming a clinical-psychologist. I wanted to help people with autism,” he says. However, after graduation, he realised his strength lay in language, and discovered that studying would allow him to exercise that asset.
His then-girlfriend, who was studying law, persuaded him to make the switch. “I was also fascinated by the legal system and criminal law,” says Young, “For example, before 1991, it wasn’t a crime for a man to rape his wife. Imagine that!”
His parents happily supported his desire to pursue a degree in what they perceived to be a more lucrative profession. “They didn’t think I would earn as much working as a psychologist,” he says.
However, after two years of working as a lawyer, he decided to risk it all and pursue his heart’s calling: performing. Men's Health caught up with Young and uncovered a man who was as sharp as a whip and full of surprises.
How was the experience of finding work in Singapore?
I’ve been fortunate. In the span of three months, I got the drama series that I was most interested in – The Pupil. The acting and writing – the way it’s filmed and its music – are comparable to an American or British TV series. There were some local shows I wasn’t impressed with, but this was an exciting one and I got to play the kind of role I wanted.
When did you know acting was what you wanted?
It has always been on the cards. At school, when I was eight, I was asked to write an autobiography pretending I was 30 and looking back at my life. I remember writing I was a comedian who performed on stage. So there was always that seed of wanting to entertain and perform. I acted in school plays and enjoyed reading Shakespearean plays out loud.
Which of Shakespeare’s characters do you like most?
Iago from Othello. I like villainous characters because everyone has a dark side. With acting, you get an excuse to bring it out and get paid for it (if you can). It’s also an opportunity to explore the different levels of your own personality. It’s like working the equaliser on a hi-fi: Dial something up and another thing down, whichever is needed. My dark element is that I tend to bear a grudge.
What was life for you like in the UK?
I went to an all-boys boarding school and university in Winchester, and we used to sneak out to meet girls and go drinking – there’s a pub culture unique to England. I get a nostalgic feeling watching the Harry Potter films; the old-style buildings, traditions, houses, terminology – it was just like that. We even have our college-only sport (like Quidditch) called Wincofo – Winchester College Football. It’s like football, rugby and American football combined.
What’s your success rate with women?
About 20 per cent. You won’t succeed 100 per cent of the time, but if you don’t try, you definitely won’t get the person you’re interested in. I try a lot more than the average guy. I’ve chatted up countless women. I keep telling myself that I’ll fail if I do nothing. And when I’ve given myself enough of a pep talk in my head, I’m fine. I’ve been on dates here but I’m currently not in a relationship.
Whose career would you want?
Patrick Stewart’s. Well, Sir Patrick Stewart now: He’s a classically trained actor. If anyone could play a Starfleet captain, it would be him. I had seen the original Star Trek series but it was Star Trek: The Next Generation that I was really into. In fact, I’d love to be in Star Trek – to be in an episode as a Ferengi or one of the guys on the team, or as a Vulcan – whatever it takes!
What’s the most shocking thing about you?
I’ve always wanted to be in a boy band. I’ve even pictured myself in one because it was what people liked and it got you the girls. I grew up on their music, like Backstreet Boys, N’Sync and Take That. I was over the moon when Take That reunited with Robbie Williams, although I missed their reunion concert. Westlife is coming here soon, so I want to check them out.