John Cho is the protagonist of the Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” remake, however, John Cho would be the first to admit that he’d never had any knowledge of the anime TV series prior to when his agent handed to him the storyline for the remake. When he first read the script the script, he was immediately hooked.
“This is the most intense job I’ve ever had, for sure, in what it required of me,” the man says to NBC Asian America.
“Cowboy Bebop,” based on the anime with the same name by the Japanese Sunrise Animation Studio, has been made available for play on Netflix. The story takes place in the future, where Earth is uninhabitable, and humanity has established colonies elsewhere on the planet. The protagonist of the show is a space cowboy Spike Spiegel (played by Cho) who is the bounty hunter who is able to capture criminals and his companions, Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) and Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda) aboard the ship of space called Bebop.
“The show is such a mixture of disparate genres,” Cho adds. “And that was the attraction of it: I can do a Western, a screwball comedy, a buddy-cop movie, noir and an action film all in one.”
Cho isn’t a stranger to the world of space stories (he played Sulu for”Star Trek,” for instance) “Star Trek” reboot, for instance). However “Cowboy Bebop” has allowed Cho to expand his capabilities as actor in ways that which he’s never done before. The 10 episodes that comprise the first season, the actor performs everything from hand-to-hand combat and gun slinging to spouting jokes and playing the lead in a romantic scene — it’s a mix of action, drama and comedy. “It’s definitely fun to do all of the above at once,” the actor says.The first season of “Cowboy Bebop,” which was released on the air in Japan in 1998 and later in America in United States in 2001, is regarded as an anime classicwith a large number of viewers who are drawn to the slick visuals, jazzy score, sense of insanity and boredom. There were expectations high for the live-action statement. Cho was aware of this, making the task all the more daunting.
“As soon as I saw [the anime], I was a fan,” he declared.
Cho mentions that a primary problem in creating live-action “Cowboy Bebop” was that, “it has to be recognized as being a ‘Cowboy Bebop’ however … you’re trying to do all is possible to create it seem like a piece of art. It’s important to feel relaxed and as if that you’re enjoying yourself.”
The first thing he had to figure out was who his own version is of Spike Spiegel was. While he has the same blue uniform as the character from the anime and even cut his hair in the same way as Spike’s hairstyle, he’s more mature than Spike who is 27 years old. Cho is 49.
He admits that he wasn’t sure how he would take on the role: “It’s a different medium. He was also painted. How do I create him into a person I can walk around in?” He says. “I was not certain that I’d discover it.
The film “Cowboy Bebop,” Spike is a character who has the tragic and dark background that he’s trying escape from. Spike is a fun-loving character with an elegant smile and a swagger. He’s also quiet and keeps his thoughts and the past in the privacy of his own home.
In the show, according to Cho, Spike is “trying to erase the past and become a new person,” and the show asks “Is that possible?” For him, the idea of reinventing himself was real. Spike is an immigrant who moved into this country in the U.S. when he was six years old. Spike is determined to create his own path. Cho noticed similarities between Spike’s story as well as “the immigrant journey,” Spike declares. “I could definitely relate to Spike wanting the freedom to declare who he is.”
When he was a child, following having moved to U.S. from Seoul, his family was often moved around and he lived at Houston, Seattle, then moving across California in search of Daly City, San Jose and Monterey Park, before settling in Glendale. The characters from “Cowboy Bebop” don’t have any place to call home, and so they are in the air, adrift from the Bebop. They are bound by a feeling of loss, either from loved ones, families or even memories. According to him, the latest show is a continuation of the original anime by exploring the characters’ personal stories.
“[It’s like the] Israelites before they were in Canaan, they’re wandering,” he adds. “I certainly felt that way when I was a child. “The characters seem lost and, in a way without a purpose; their goal is to survive. In my opinion, part of the reason we have a season is that they find a reason to exist whether active or passively.”
Although there are some scenes and story beats in the style of The original manga, this live-action show has its own storyline. The characters’ backstories have been expanded: Jet Black is a father with a daughter. Faye Valentine is now bisexual Spike’s love-interest Julia is now more fully developed and is seen more often. The pivotal fight that takes place between Spike and his adversary, Vicious, begins in the same manner as is shown in the cartoon. However, the way it is resolved is quite different.
In his description of the program, Cho compares it to songs by Bob Dylan. “Why would people want to record Dylan’s songs? There’s already a song recorded,” he posits. “Because it’s an excellent song. They want to put it out for size and determine what they think their interpretation will do to the tune, and also expand what they mean by the song, and give the song a different taste.” Then he states, “What we’re doing is creating rather than replacing.”
Overall it’s been a wild couple of years for Cho. “Cowboy Bebop” began filming in New Zealand in 2019, in which Cho moved with his family for a short time. Then, he injured the ACL during filming that delayed production to eight years. The virus then led to additional delays. In April of last year, he wrote an op-ed in the concerning the increase in violent attacks on Asian Americans.
In his piece in the piece, he wrote “The pandemic reminds us that our identity is not permanent. At one point we are Americans but the next, we’re all foreigners who ‘brought’ the disease to us. Similar to fame, the’model minority’ myth may give an illusion of ‘race-free-ness.'”