It was a Tuesday morning in February and John Cho was listening to a podcast as he exercised.
He’d selected an episode detailing the night former President Donald Trump posed with a Bible for a “photo op” in front of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. To get the picture, U.S. Park Police deployed rubber bullets, shields and chemical irritants like pepper spray, forcefully removing protestors from nearby Lafayette Park.
The first-hand account described people huddled, washing each other’s eyes out with milk and water in the home of someone who had opened their doors as a refuge. As he was listening, Cho started to have a panic attack. “These are things thousands of miles away, you know, and I wasn’t there, but these events do enter your heart in a way that’s difficult to predict,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I had to turn it off. I couldn’t breathe. I sort of fell to my knee. It was crazy.”
This is not the first time the actor has been overwhelmed since the summer of 2020. It’s why he pivoted the focus of his middle-grade debut, initially pitched as a mystery novel and “a gift to a younger me,” to Troublemaker (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers). The story follows a 12-year-old Korean American boy named Jordan, who — feeling guilty over an unresolved fight and scared for his father, who left to go board up the family’s store — takes a gun from his Appa’s closet and ventures out, without permission, during the first night of the 1992 L.A. Uprising.
The idea of telling a story about the L.A. Riots from the Korean perspective had actually been on Cho’s mind for a while as a possible movie, but how to tell it wasn’t clear. Then in the late spring of 2020, George Floyd’s murder was broadcast across the country, as were that summer’s unprecedented racial justice protests demanding changes to the American policing system. Alongside all of this, anti-Asian racism, fueled by disinformation around COVID-19’s origins, drove a dramatic spike in hate crimes against members of the Asian and Asian American community.
It all invoked memories of two events when Cho was in college: the brutal beating of Rodney King by four LAPD officers — all acquitted of their assault and excessive force charges — and the murder of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl shot by Du Soon Ja after the Korean shop owner accused the girl of stealing. Combined, the incidents ignited five days of unrest in 1992, during which more than 2,000 people were injured and over 50 killed. There was a line between those five days and the 2020 uprising Cho says he couldn’t ignore — not for himself or for his children. [More at Source]
Written by Mouza on March 12