John Cho on Netflix’s ‘Cowboy Bebop’ remake, his ‘most intense job’ yet

He is the star of Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” remake, however John Cho could be the primary to confess that he hadn’t been conscious of the unique anime tv sequence earlier than his agent despatched him the script for the reboot. However when he learn it, he was hooked. 

“That is probably the most intense job I’ve ever had, for positive, in what it required of me,” he tells NBC Asian America.

“Cowboy Bebop,” based mostly on the anime sequence of the identical title from Japan’s Dawn animation studio, is offered to stream on Netflix. It takes place sooner or later the place the Earth is uninhabitable and mankind has created colonies on different planets. The hero of the present is house cowboy Spike Spiegel (performed by Cho), a bounty hunter who captures criminals along with his companions, Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda), aboard the spaceship Bebop.

“The present is such a combination of disparate genres,” Cho says. “And that was the attraction of it: I can do a Western, a screwball comedy, a buddy-cop film, noir and an motion movie multi function.”

Mustafa Shakir as Black Jet and John Cho as Spike Spiegel in “Cowboy Bebop.”Geoffrey Brief / Netflix

Cho isn’t any stranger to house narratives (he did play Sulu within the “Star Trek” reboot, in any case). However “Cowboy Bebop” has allowed him to stretch himself as an actor in methods he hasn’t earlier than. Within the 10 episodes of the primary season of the present, he does all the things from hand-to-hand fight and gun slinging, to cracking jokes and being a romantic lead — it’s equal components drama, motion, and comedy. “It’s positively enjoyable to do all the above directly,” he says.The unique “Cowboy Bebop,” which premiered in Japan in 1998 and in the USA in 2001, is taken into account an anime basic, with legions of followers interested in its fashionable imagery, jazz-infused rating, sense of listlessness and ennui. So there have been excessive expectations for the reside motion comment. Cho was conscious of all of this, which made the mission all that extra intimidating.

“As quickly as I noticed [the anime], I used to be a fan,” he mentioned.

Cho says {that a} key problem in making a reside motion “Cowboy Bebop” was that, “it must be recognizable as ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ however … you wish to do what you may to make it really feel inventive. And also you wish to be at liberty and such as you’re having enjoyable.”

The very first thing that he did was work out who his model of Spike Spiegel was. Although he wears the identical iconic blue swimsuit because the anime character, and even grew out his hair to imitate Spike’s hair, he’s older than the character, who’s 27. Cho is 49.

He admits he wasn’t positive if he was in a position to deal with the position: “It’s a distinct medium. And he was painted. So how do I make him an individual that I’ve to stroll round in,” he explains. “I wasn’t assured that I used to be going to have the ability to discover it. 

In “Cowboy Bebop,” Spike is a personality with a darkish and tragic previous he’s attempting to run away from. He’s playful, with a cool swagger. He’s additionally reserved and retains his emotions, and his previous, near his chest.

To Cho, Spike is “attempting to erase the previous and develop into a brand new individual,” and the present asks, “Is that doable?” To him, this notion of reinvention was relatable. He’s an immigrant and got here to the U.S. when he was 6 years previous. Spike needs to chart a brand new path for himself. Cho noticed parallels between Spike’s journey and “the immigrant journey,” he says. “I may positively relate to Spike wanting the liberty to declare who he’s.”

As a child, after transferring to the U.S. from Seoul, his household moved round regularly, residing in Houston, Seattle, then hopping round California to Daly Metropolis, San Jose and Monterey Park, earlier than settling in Glendale. Likewise, the characters of “Cowboy Bebop” don’t have a house they usually float adrift, in house, on the Bebop. They’re tied collectively by a way of loss: both of household, family members, and even their recollections. To him, the brand new present expands on the anime by exploring extra of the characters’ private histories.

“[It’s like the] Israelites earlier than they had been in Canaan, they’re wandering,” he says. “I positively felt like that as a child. [The characters are] adrift and, to some extent, purposeless; their function is survival. And I feel a part of our season one is them discovering some function, be it passively or actively.”

Although there are specific pictures and story beats which are impressed by the unique anime, the reside motion present additionally charts its personal narrative path. The characters have expanded backstories: Jet Black is a father with a daughter, Faye Valentine is now bisexual, Spike’s love curiosity Julia is extra totally developed and seems extra regularly. And a pivotal struggle between Spike and his nemesis, Vicious, begins in the identical approach that it does within the anime. However the way it ends is markedly totally different.

In describing the brand new present, Cho compares it to covers of Bob Dylan’s music. “Why do individuals file his songs? There’s already a recording,” he posits. “As a result of it’s a very good music. They usually wish to attempt it on for dimension and see what their interpretation does to the music, and develop the that means of the music—give it one other taste.” He then provides, “What we’re doing is including, not changing.”

Total, it’s been an eventful two years for Cho. “Cowboy Bebop” started filming in New Zealand in 2019, the place Cho relocated along with his household quickly. He then tore his ACL whereas filming, which set manufacturing again by eight months. The pandemic then created additional delays. Final April, he wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Instances concerning the surge in violent assaults in opposition to Asian Individuals.

Within the piece, he wrote, “The pandemic is reminding us that our belonging is conditional. One second we’re Individuals, the following we’re all foreigners, who ‘introduced’ the virus right here. Like fame, the ‘mannequin minority’ fantasy can present the phantasm of ‘raceless-ness.’” 

When speaking concerning the op-ed, Cho turns into extra chagrined, admitting that he has been very discouraged concerning the present discourse round race, and the fervor in opposition to essential race principle. “Clearly, we’ve a race downside in America, however zero individuals declare themselves racist,” he says. “Possibly we’ve to exchange that phrase with one thing else. It must be a phrase that permits individuals to look at themselves. How can we focus on racism, if nobody is prepared to look at themselves, together with individuals of colour?”

He admits that rising up, he was inspired by his mother and father to assimilate, in order that his race wouldn’t be a legal responsibility. However in his estimation, the occasions of the previous 12 months have proven Asian Individuals that residing a “raceless” life is inconceivable. “[Race is] form of too constructed into the material of this nation. And what’s cheap is coming to a spot of respect, in coexistence, and love. And possibly we will get there. Possibly that’s doable.”