In a matter of years, Henry Golding has become a bankable leading man. He charmed Constance Wu (and the entire world) in Crazy Rich Asians, gave his heart to Emilia Clarke in Last Christmas, channelled his inner gangster in The Gentlemen, and gave a captivating low-key performance in Vietnamese drama Monsoon. This year, he’s in all-out summer blockbuster mode as the lead in G.I Joe spin-off Snake Eyes – meaning you can add ‘action star’ to his list of accomplishments.

“Snake Eyes is a character synonymous with ass-kicking,” he tells Empire in The British New Wave issue. “To step up to that level of physicality was a real challenge, but the amazing thing about our version of the character is that he is on as much of an emotional journey as a physical one. We really get to delve into his psyche.”

It’s Golding’s versatility that makes him a force to be reckoned with – a performer just as comfortable being a romantic lead as he is in harder-edged territory. In a single day, he went from twinkly-eyed romantic in Last Christmas to criminal territory in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen. “There was one overlap day when we were filming nights for Last Christmas in the dead of winter,” he says. “I had to transform from this happy-go-lucky guy into Dry Eye with his leopard print and Louis Vuitton pumps, yelling all these profanities. I think it’s an actor’s greatest dream to be able to do that.” The dream, for Golding, is far from over.

This month’s issue of Empire is a massive celebration of The British New Wave, showcasing 26 incredible directors, writers and actors driving cinema into a new era. On the cover, you’ll find Bukky Bakray, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emerald Fennell and Riz Ahmed – and the issue also features major new interviews and exclusive new photo shoots with stars such as Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Olivia Cooke, Jessica Yu Li Henwick, Olly Alexander, Weruche Opia, Morfydd Clark, Weruche Opia and Gemma Chan, and writers and directors including Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Billie Piper, Remi Weekes, Kate Herron, Francis Lee, and Rob Savage.