John Yohan Cho was born in Seoul, South Korea, but moved to Los Angeles, California as a child, where his father was a Christian Minister. Cho was educated at Herbert Hoover High School at Glendale before moving on to the University of California at Berkeley where he studied English Literature. Upon graduation, Cho moved back to Los Angeles, working for a while as a teacher at Pacific Hills School. He also began acting with the famed Asian American theater company East West Players.
A screen acting career began with small roles in projects such as Wag the Dog (1997) and Bowfinger (1999). His breakthrough came when he appeared in the teen romance comedyAmerican Pie (1999) and helped coin the phrase “MILF”. Other roles followed, and he scored another hit in the slacker comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004). Cho also starred in the hugely successful franchise reboot Star Trek (2009), in the sought after role of Hikaru Sulu.
From 2009 to 2010, Cho starred in the television series FlashForward as FBI Special Agent Demetri Noh. His character was originally slated to be killed off during what turned out to be the show’s only season, but after his turn as Sulu in Star Trek boosted his popularity, the producers revised the show’s storyline so that he survived, in an attempt to boost declining ratings.
Cho starred as Henry Higgs in the short-lived sitcom Selfie, a retooling of the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, becoming the first Asian American to play a romantic lead on a U.S. television series.
In 2018, Cho starred in the film Searching, playing a man combing social media for clues to his daughter’s disappearance. He was the first Asian-American actor to headline a mainstream thriller in Hollywood.
On April 4, 2019, Variety reported that Cho have been cast as Spike Spiegel in a live-action version of the Cowboy Bebop series.
As well as acting, Cho is also a singer and performs in the band Viva La Union. He is married to actress Kerri Higuchi and they have two children.