If his new ABC show “Selfie” stays on the air long enough, John Cho may make history as television’s first Asian romantic lead.
Actually, even if it gets canceled — as some are predicting — he already has, just by being cast in the role.
“I would call this revolutionary,” he told the Toronto Star earlier this year. “It’s certainly a personal revolution for me.”
You may recognize Cho as Captain Hikaru Sulu in the 2009 and 2013 “Star Trek” films — and as Harold, half of the eponymous duo whose adventures are chronicled in the stoner comedy “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and two subsequent films.
On being Asian in Hollywood: “I experienced racism, and in my professional life, I try to take roles (and have always tried to take roles) that don’t fall within the parameters of any Asian stereotype,” Cho wrote. “And so to me, hopefully, that’s a positive thing I can put into popular culture and so maybe in some bizarrely tiny way that helps people not think of Asians in one particular way.”
On that time he wouldn’t do the accent: When Cho was asked to do an accent for “Big Fat Liar,” he said he turned it down. “I don’t want to do this role in a kid’s comedy, with an accent, because I don’t want young people laughing at an accent inadvertently,” he wrote. But the director was willing to work with him to develop the character, a Hong Kong movie director. “I bumped into [director Shawn Levy] recently, and for him he says it was his first feature, and it was really awesome from HIS perspective that it was a good reminder that actors need to feel invested and the importance of collaboration, but for ME it was important that someone understood where I was coming from politically as far as representation of Asian-Americans.”
He wants to be Batman: “Ben Affleck’s doing it next right?” Cho wrote. “After Ben retires, I call next. A serious Asian tech billionaire maybe? Who moonlights as a caped crusader? I’ll buy it!”
Someone once threatened to kill him: “I was working at an ice cream / coffee / sandwich shop in college,” Cho wrote, “and there was a car alarm right outside that was SO loud, and i put a note on the car – I don’t know why, I was feeling sassy, it was just bothering me going for like 45 minutes – I put a note ‘You gotta come out and put out the alarm when you hear it!’ I was like 19 or 20. And it belonged to a very angry employee at the movie theater next door, and he said ‘Who wrote this note?’ and I said ‘I did’ and he said ‘I’m gonna go home, get my gun, and then I’m going to come back here, and shoot you.’ He did not keep his promise, thank god. I did believe him! Strangely enough, I finished out my shift.”
On the original Sulu, George Takei: “As an Asian kid in America,” Cho wrote, it was “unfailingly thrilling” to see George Takei on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. He added: “I also find it amazing that he has moved past being an actor and has become an American cultural icon. It’s pretty crazy. But people who’ve never seen Star Trek know who George Takei is, and if you say ‘Oh, my’ you know it’s the dude from Star Trek.”
His connection to North Korea: “My father was born in what is now North Korea,” Cho wrote. ” … There are people who are risking their lives to smuggle in DVDS with Western pop culture movies and TV shows … it is considered a way to fight the regime by spreading images of Western Pop culture to show that what they’ve been saying about the West is untrue. It would be really amazing if they were aware of a person of Korean descent who was part of that popular culture and output.”
On “Better Luck Tomorrow”: Cho felt that the 2002 crime drama, with a largely Asian-American cast, “was part and parcel of a great movement in independent cinema that came out of the 1990s. it came out of this great fervor,” he wrote. “It felt like we were pushing against a membrane and never really broke through, but I was really proud to be a part of the pushing. And maybe nothing really similar has come along, partially because the business has changed to be less about independent cinema and more about television, that’s where the interesting content is going.”
On “American Pie”: “It could have been a forgettable gross out movie, but what carried the day was its earnestness and its characters,” Cho wrote of one of his first films. “Even though admittedly there’s a sexual pie, a man has sex with a pie, but I think there’s a lot of imitators and they were never able to quite capture the spirit of that movie, because what that movie did was effectively capture and remember what it felt like to be that age.”
Correction: this story previously said “Better Luck Tomorrow” was released in 1992.