John Cho is an actor with many credits to his name. Some are comedy based (Harold & Kumar), while others are smaller roles in popular franchises, ala Star Trek. However, in recent years, the actor has shown he’s capable of more than Hollywood has allowed him to prove thus far.
In 2016, fans created the #StarringJohnCho hashtag as a means to voice their frustrations with Hollywood, while also throwing their support behind the actor. Two years later, in 2018, Cho finally got to become a leading man thanks to Searching. It was a low-budget film about a father trying to find his daughter, yet it went on to earn $75.5 million at the box office. The highly-buzzed about feature earned Cho a nomination for Best Male Lead from the Independent Spirit Awards in 2019, as well as plenty of Oscar buzz among critics. Yet, despite all of this, it still feels as though Cho has not been given his due in Hollywood.
Enter Cowboy Bebop. Although flawed in its storytelling, Netflix’s live-action take on the beloved anime does something right. Casting a character like Spike Spiegel isn’t easy. The person portraying the character has to have a certain charisma to them. They have to be charming, yet appear deadly. Cho manages to capture Spiegel’s wit and personality perfectly. More importantly, though, his performance seems almost effortless.
He feels threatening during the flashbacks to his time in the syndicate. He feels vulnerable as he recalls his time with Julia. More importantly, however, Cho showcases the humanity of a character who so often hides behind his sarcasm. He’s able to slip into the character so easily, you forget you’re watching a performance because of how well he encompasses the character.
Cho moves between the roles as Fearless and Spike with no hesitation. As Fearless, a member of the Red Dragon Crime Syndicate, he has no qualms about killing anyone. He’s rash, callous and deadly. Whereas, as Spike, there’s a moral center to the character. Cho’s actions soften as we move to present-day Spike, yet he’s just as imposing in action scenes for both.
In an industry where white men named Chris seem to get all of the roles, it’s about time Hollywood sees Cho as more than a supporting character. His turn as Spike Spiegel shows he is ready for a franchise of his own.