George Young always knew he wanted to be a performer. Somewhere between studying psychology and becoming a lawyer, the 32 year-old decided it was “just not fun” and left his job at a firm in London to take acting classes in New York. While his parents – both from cultures that have a strong stance on building a professional career – gave him a hard time about choosing the right path, Young knew he needed to take a leap of faith and try to make a living out of doing something he really enjoyed.
Young, whose father is Chinese and mother is Greek-Cypriot, was born and raised in London. His parents met in the U.K., where “they got very drunk and had me,” he said jokingly from Singapore via Skype. With his British accent, he greeted me with “Eisai kala?,” admitting that’s the extent of his Greek. His parents both speak their native languages fluently, but decided not to teach Young and his three brothers Chinese or Greek because they thought it would affect their ability to speak English.
“[My brothers and I] always gave my parents a lot of crap about that; we’re trying to make up for that now,” he said.
Not speaking the language doesn’t take away from the fact that Young claims to top Tom Hanks’ feeling of being 110 percent Greek by saying he is “111 percent Greek,” and has the hair on his chest to prove it. He’s visited Nicosia a few times, where his mother is from, but hasn’t had the chance to explore it yet. After returning to the U.K. from New York, he quickly booked a talent agent and picked up a few gigs, including appearances on television programs “The Brian Jackson Show” and “The Pupil.”
“I’m thankful it worked out well…touch wood (knocks on wood), which my mom always says,” he noted.
Even though he changed his last name to Young from Ng, his father’s surname, the problem with trying to find success as an actor in the U.K. was typecasting. Young didn’t looked Asian enough, and casting directors didn’t see him as Greek or Caucasian. And while he could’ve used his mother’s maiden name – Michaelides – cutting it down would have made his moniker “George Michael,” but that was already taken by another famous Greek-Cypriot Brit.
Opportunity knocked when Young landed a part in a major Bollywood film, “Jhoota Hi Sahi.” Filming locations were in London and Mumbai, India, so he took advantage of checking out neighboring countries for a possible career move. After working briefly in Taiwan, Young then discovered a burgeoning young market in Singapore. He signed with the leading agency there, Fly Entertainment, and never looked back.
Young was soon hired to host the Singapore version of the popular game show “Million Dollar Money Drop.” After the first episode aired, #GeorgeYoung trended on Twitter and ultimately made him a celebrity. Picking up more hosting spots on shows like “Art Bites,” Young found himself becoming quite popular with teenage girls. Considered a heartthrob to many, the girls have taken a liking to the Eurasian-Greek, and are enthusiastic to express their admiration on social media when they catch a glimpse of the handsome Young.
“I’ll usually see a group of girls, and then they’ll sort of do a double take and maybe do a tweet about it,” he said, calling those his “Justin Bieber” moments. “The people in Singapore are very nice…it’s flattering more than anything else. It’s just appreciated, really. It’s great that they love you and support you and support your work.”
Taking note from Bieber, Young started singing lessons about a year ago. With three brothers, he could perhaps be primed to lead a boy band to stardom…and he welcomes it.
“I’ve always had an ambition to be in a boy band…Backstreet Boys, *NSync, that kind of thing; the music videos [with] the fan blowing, [being] on the beach, wearing all white. Definitely.”
With his appeal to a generally female audience, Young was featured on the show “Hot Guys Who Cook.” He made a beef dish for his segment, pointing out that it’s really the only meal he can actually make. Asked if he would make a Greek recipe for his possible next appearance on the program, he said he’d have to enlist his Yia Yia’s help on that one. Naming keftedes, dolmades and kleftiko as some of his favorite dishes, he admitted he can’t cook any of them and with only one Greek restaurant in Singapore, he’ll get Yia Yia to make them if he’s “really nice to her.”
Having just wrapped up his first professional play, a stage version of the Hollywood film “Swimming with Sharks,” Young said people got to see a different side of him and he enjoyed it. He also completed an international movie, and could potentially head to Los Angeles if the right situation presented itself. With interest from a management company in Hollywood, Young said if the “logistics” can be worked out, he may just make the move. He already has a list of people he’d like to work with, including Tom Hanks and his son Colin Hanks, Christian Bale, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michael Fassbender. He’s not ruling out the female leads, either.
“Bring on the Greek actresses,” he said, like Jennifer Aniston, adding he’d also like to star opposite pretty ladies Emma Stone and Kristen Stewart. “It’d be nice to work on Hollywood projects in general.”
Aside from all the glamour of the industry, Young is very active in raising awareness for autism. Two of his brothers have severe cases of the condition, and he found it an obvious platform to become involved with. Campaigning with cosmetics company Kiehl’s, and most recently the Singapore President’s Star Charity event, Young has also drafted a concept for a children’s book focusing on autism. No matter where his career lands him, he said, “that’ll always be there; that’s kind of my cause that I want to keep going with wherever I am.”
As he prepares for upcoming acting and hosting jobs, Young seems content with his decision to switch professions. Aware of the blessings he’s had so far, he confessed he sometimes secretly partakes in the Greek custom to spit, or “ftou ftou,” himself to ward off the evil eye.
“I thankfully don’t do that in interviews or in public,” he said with a laugh.
You can check out Young being envied for his barely-there gold shorts and getting complimented as “Gorgeous George” in this clip from an ad campaign, minus the “ftou ftou”: