A CAREER OF CHARACTER WORK
By Lee Parham
Before he brings Spike Spiegel to live-action in Cowboy Bebop, we take a look back on the long and sustained career of John Cho.
The Cowboy Bebop actor was born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1972. His family later immigrated to America in 1978 to Los Angeles.
Cho graduated from The University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in English, later to teach high school students. In the meantime, he was stage acting in downtown LA.
The Korean-born actor did not have an immediate breakthrough in the industry. Cho bounced around several indie films in the mid-to-late 1990s before getting cast in bigger projects.
While neither role was substantial, 1999 proved to be one of the most significant years for Cho’s career, appearing in Best Picture-winner American Beauty, and comedy classic American Pie.
Cho’s character in American Pie, named MILF Guy #2, instantly became a fan-favorite, and popularized the risque term “MILF” in modern media. He reprised his role in the film’s three sequels.
Comedy became a significant outlet for the performer in his early career. After a slew of supporting roles, Cho proved himself as a leading man in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
Cho starred alongside Kal Penn, and the stoner comedy became a cult classic, spawning two sequels: Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
Fortune favored Cho in 2009 as he landed a most significant career role in the JJ Abrams reboot of Star Trek. Cho played the part of Hikaru Sulu, taking over from George Takei.
Sulu’s character was expanded from The Original Series, adding martial arts elements and establishing him as gay in Star Trek Beyond, honoring Takei’s impact on the LGTBQ+ community.
Since the rebooted Star Trek series seemingly concluded in 2016, Cho has gone back to indie films and ventured into horror/thriller territory with parts in Searching and The Grudge.
Finally, John Cho has another opportunity to portray a beloved character, this time converting a famous anime icon to live-action in Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, where he stars as Spike Spiegel.
Spike Spiegel is a bounty hunter from Mars with a tendency for fistfighting. Cho grew out his hair for the part, hoping to mimic his cartoon counterpart.
From adaptations of classic TV shows to iconic comedy roles, John Cho has established himself as a reliable character actor in Hollywood.