Feature: John Cho for the LA Times


Written by Mouza on March 12

Some of the most enduring images from the Los Angeles riots are the photos of armed Korean shopkeepers patrolling the rooftops of liquor stores and laundromats to deter rioters.

In some Korean Americans, those images inspire pride, and in others, shame. The actor John Cho, he told me, felt mostly panic and fear. Then 19 years old and a student at UC Berkeley, he could see how the images were being interpreted and worried that they would spark more hostility toward Koreans.

In his new young adult novel that he wrote with Sarah Suk, “Troublemaker,” his goal was to start with those photos, and zoom out.

“We wanted to start at that stereotypical image of the rooftop Koreans. Our thinking was, ‘What if we could humanize this person? What would that look like?’”

Though written for a young adult audience, Cho’s novel is a sincere attempt to make sense of an event that we are still trying to understand. This year is the 30th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, and though we are still trying, I don’t think we have fully made sense of what happened. In 2017, for the first time since the riots, a Loyola Marymount University poll found that 6 out of 10 Angelenos surveyed believed that another uprising is likely within the next five years.

Cho doesn’t see himself as an expert author or historian on the subject. But now, at 49, he is a father too, wrestling for the words to explain an event that his own parents have always discussed in hushed Korean behind cupped hands.

So in the summer of 2020, as the George Floyd protests broke out and anti-Asian violence was on the rise, Cho decided to write a book about the Los Angeles riots. He describes it as the book he wished his younger self could have read.

The novel follows a Korean American boy named Jordan trying to reach his father, a liquor store owner, on the night that the riots break out. His goal is to deliver a gun he found at home to his father so that he can help protect the store. The narrative locates itself around the violent chaos of that night, but never inside of it, turning down the volume to focus on the relationship between Jordan and his father. [More at Source]

Feature: John Cho for the NY Times


Written by Mouza on April 21

Whenever North Korea makes the news, John Cho is overcome with sadness and by what he calls a sliding-doors effect — an eerie vision of a parallel life had his parents not escaped to the South.

“I mean, there but for the grace of God go I,” he said.

The Korean War, which erupted five years after the country was divided in 1945 — the United States supporting the South, and the Soviet Union the North — was rarely discussed in front of the young Cho, who at 6 emigrated with his family to America from Seoul.

But its shadow still looms, and he leapt at the offer to narrate “Korea: The Never-Ending War,” a two-hour chronicle of Korean Peninsula history airing April 29 on PBS (check local listings).

“My life was very much changed and strangely continues to be shaped by this event,” he said. “It’s the defining experience of modern Koreans.”

“Korea” is the second part of a weirdly wonky Cho double-bill in the coming days: On April 25, he’ll play a presidential campaign strategist in “The Wunderkind,” an episode of Jordan Peele’s revival of “The Twilight Zone” on CBS All Access.

In 2016, Cho — then best known as the stoner Harold Lee in the “Harold & Kumar” comedies and Hikaru Sulu in the “Star Trek” franchise — became the unwitting beneficiary of #StarringJohnCho, a social movement that imagined Cho standing in for, say, Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible” and Daniel Craig in “Spectre” as part of a wider calling for diversity in entertainment, and an Asian-American leading man.

Hollywood has responded. In 2018, he became the first Asian-American actor to head a mainstream thriller in “Searching” — with a performance that A.O. Scott of The Times deemed Oscar-caliber.

More recently, Cho was tagged to helm a motley crew of bounty hunters as Spike Spiegel in “Cowboy Bebop,” the coming Netflix live-action spin on the space Western anime in which he’ll flex some martial-arts skills.

In a phone interview fresh from a training session in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife, the actress and director Kerri Higuchi, and their two children, Cho, 46, spoke about coming to America and how Hollywood has surprised him. [More at Source]

Feature: John Cho for Glass Magazine


Written by Mouza on April 21

John was one of multi-celebrities covers Glass Magazine have done celebrating their 10th anniversary issue. I’ve updated the gallery with the digital scans of the issue and the accompanying photoshoot.

   
    
 

Feature: John Cho is Pushing Limits


Written by Mouza on August 29

   

As he weaves his thoughts between different subjects — from his relationship to his race (what does Asian American mean when you’re a Korean immigrant who just wanted to fit in?) and the characters he chooses to depict on screen (which almost always leads to a larger conversation on representation) to measures of success (“The career is just something that is not a part of me; it’s something that walks next to me, it’s not me”) — one thing becomes clear: At the end of the day, Cho just wants to make good movies that allow him to stretch his creative muscles. And so it is with “Searching,” his new film.

Helmed by first-time feature director Aneesh Chaganty, the indie thriller explores the grief of David Kim, whose teenage daughter (Michelle La) goes missing following the death of his wife (Sara Sohn). The entirety of the film plays out through David’s eyes, which functions as a camera of sorts as we watch the story unfold on his computer screen.

Chaganty, a self-described John Cho fanboy, and his writing partner Sev Ohanian wrote David with Cho in mind, but it required several entreaties before the actor came around.

“[The film] was out of my comfort zone, so I said no at first,” Cho says. He’d seen “Unfriended,” really the only approximate example of a movie that takes place completely on a digital screen, and didn’t like the idea of acting for a static camera. And he definitely did not want to feel as though he were making a YouTube video. But at the same time, he did like the screenplay, if only interpreted as a more traditional picture, and was flattered most of all that the role — an explicitly Korean American one at that — was created for him.

To his credit, Chaganty doesn’t give up easy. He sent off a few nervous texts, and Cho eventually acquiesced to a meeting. “When we met face-to-face, I just really liked [Chaganty] so much,” Cho says. “He had vision and conviction and a lot of charisma, and he convinced me it would be a movie. I just had a feeling about him. So I said yes.” [Source]

Feature: John Cho for GQ


Written by Mouza on August 16

   

But it doesn’t stop people from asking him the same questions. The actor talks about being a focal point for Asian-American representation and why nobody wanted him to do his new movie Searching.

After reading dozens of interviews with John Cho, I realize not a single one of them doesn’t ask the 46-year-old actor about Asian-American representation—the lack of it, the future of it, how being a handsome Korean American with a lengthy IMDb page puts him at the center of that conversation. After all, he’s #StarringJohnCho, the guy that had his face Photoshopped by fans in place of white actors in the name of representation. But maybe he needs a break from that responsibility. Everyone does. So, going into our interview, I think, Okay, I’m just going to talk to John Cho about his new movie. No Asian stuff this time.

Then, slouched across a gray couch after his GQ photo shoot, the first thing John Cho says to me: “I’ve been thinking about white supremacy a lot.”

So much for that. Instead of talking about Searching, the twisty thriller that takes place entirely across computer and phone screens, the one he’s here to promote, we start talking about the return of Nazis. And eventually we get to Searching, and move onto Asian-American stuff, which Cho speaks about thoughtfully, wading through it like the muddy, messy subject that it is. (It’s obvious he thinks about it a lot.) But first, I have one very pressing question… [More at Source]


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