John Cho has the starring role in the extraordinary new film, “Columbus,” written, directed and edited by the mono-monikered Kogonada. The Korean-born actor plays Jin, a translator for a publisher in Seoul, who travels to Columbus, Indiana to be near his father, an architecture professor who is in a coma. Jin reveals that he is not especially close with his father, but he does develop a deep, meaningful friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young woman who loves architecture and has stayed in Columbus to care for her mother (Michelle Forbes). Cho and Richardson have an ingratiating, natural rapport that develops as they visit various architectural sites and discuss their lives.
Cho gives a finely calibrated performance that is both profound and affecting. The actor, who is perhaps best known for his work as Sulu in the “Star Trek” films or from the goofball “Harold and Kumar” comedies, appears both enigmatic and transparent in “Columbus” — sometimes within the same scene. Jin may come off as serious, even hard at first, but as the film progresses, he and Casey reveal their emotions, vulnerabilities and sensitivities.
The magic of Kogonada’s exquisite and very moving film extends to how the director frames every shot brilliantly, incorporating Columbus, Indiana’s modernist architecture as a way of expressing the characters’ thoughts and feelings
Cho spoke with Salon about starring in “Columbus,” and the things and people that move him.
There was a buzzy twitter campaign, #starringjohncho, that raised concerns over the lack of leading man roles for Asian American actors. Can you discuss starring in “Columbus”?
There’s not much planning to my career. It’s more “this moves me, and I have to do it.” That was the case with this script. I met Kogonada and I had to do it. I’ve done things for reasons other than passion, and you can’t strategize your career — or at least, that doesn’t work for me. In the political context you’re speaking about, it’s not a reaction to the plight of the Asian American male, but I wear that as a badge of pride. “Columbus” doesn’t play to stereotypes by fighting them. It’s confident enough to be its own story and shrug off the noise about stereotypes and diversity. That’s why I was attracted to it. I’m less concerned with politics and more about expression and truth. [More at Source]