John Cho, Trek’s new star on the horizon
By Darrah Le Montre
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 4/8/09 — “I did feel pressure, John Cho explains of his role as Sulu in the new “Star Trek” movie. “You’re doing a role that another actor did and you certainly don’t want to dishonor that. And I felt pressure to honor the Star Trekkers, the fans, to do right by them. They’re very passionate about this mythology and you don’t want to mess with that,” Cho tells Hollywood Today.
“It’s a younger, more action-filled, more athletic version of “Star Trek,” so, I think both camps will be happy,” Cho says, of the new film.
With the upcoming Paramount Pictures release of director J.J. Abrams $150M budgeted action film, “Star Trek,” John Cho talks with Hollywood Today about playing the role of Sulu as a Korean-American, working with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto and what’s next for the rising star.
At first, Cho was concerned that some Japanese-Americans might take issue with the fact that now Sulu was being played by a Korean-American as opposed to a Japanese-American. So he brought his concern to George Takei, the actor who originally portrayed Sulu in “Star Trek” the series, and who has recently become a gay-rights activist.
“He informed me that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of “Star Trek,” actually meant for Sulu to represent multiple Asian countries. The Sulu Sea is what his character is named after. And it touches many Asian countries. He didn’t want Sulu to be Japanese-American he wanted him to represent a part of the world that he wanted on the bridge of the Enterprise.”
Of working with director J.J. Abrams, co-creator of the hit ABC series “Lost,” Cho says, “J.J.’s a great guy. He’s maybe the most knowledgeable filmmaker I’ve ever worked with. He just sort of knows everything about every department and so his sets run very fast because he’s able to make decisions very rapidly. He has multiple cameras running all the time and so you are forced not to play an angle, you really have to be in the moment and it’s also a fun set. He’s a jokester like myself, so it worked for me.”
The “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” star spoke about the preparation for his first action movie. Cho tells us, “A couple months before filming we started training every day. And I have some action in the movie that I had to train for, specifically a sword fight. So, it was great! I really enjoyed it. I got into shape and it felt like we went through “Starfleet Academy” together because it was me and Zachary Quinto who plays Spock and Chris Pine who plays Kirk. So the three of us went through this training together and it created a bond between us.”
Having only “fancifully thought of other professions,” John Cho muses that he should stick with acting, because, at this point, he is “very undertrained.” He explains that one of his biggest goals in Hollywood is to help make Asians more visible in major roles. Part of that mission is being accomplished through his work on “Star Trek.”
“Star Trek” is a classic Western. Going westward, looking for new territory. But without the restrictions of race. So “Star Trek” is a dream role because it’s fulfilling one of my wishes as a kid.”
John Cho moved to the United States with his family at age 6 and realized he wanted to be an actor during college. A graduate of UC Berkeley, who has had guest and recurring roles on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty,” Cho is optimistic for the future of visibility of Asian-Americans in TV and film, and also of the country’s landscape. Regarding U.S. president Barack Obama, John waxes, “he appears to be a man of peace and a man of negotiation and reconciliation and I hope that that bodes well for our culture.”
What’s next up for one of People Magazine’s ‘Sexiest Men Alive’? “Saint John of Las Vegas,” starring Sarah Silverman and Steve Buscemi. “He is one of my heroes,” John enthuses. “It’s a comedy so it was a real pleasure making Steve laugh. It’s great making a hero of yours laugh.”
A third Harold & Kumar movie is also in the works, but still in the writing stages, and of course, the “Star Trek” franchise righteously awaits.
“I think that Star Trek…represents a very optimistic vision of America, different races and cultures and colors coming together for a peaceful mission. It’s a very hopeful version of America and I think that’s one of the keys to its success.”