“In terms of my discipline, I am strangely better suited at this age.”
John Cho knows there’s a lot riding on the live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop — the late ’90s neo-noir space Western Japanese anime.
The futuristic series — hailed as one of the greatest anime shows of all time — follows an easygoing bounty hunter named Spike Spiegel, who is 27.
Cho, who is 49, spoke to Vulture in a new interview about his intense training for the role and how the age difference between himself and his character was his “biggest fear” in being cast in the Netflix remake.
When the adaptation cast was announced in 2019, some fans were concerned over the age discrepancy between Spike and Cho.
From the get-go, the Columbus actor said he knew fans would have issues with his age, saying that he “had to get over it.” He explained, “I’m not a person who says age is just a number or whatever. It was gonna be harder — physically. And I was gonna look different than a 25-year-old guy. At some point, the opportunity is ‘Yes or no — do you wanna do it?’ And I did wanna do it. So I wasn’t gonna stop myself from doing it.”
Additionally, Cho said his age actually plays in his favor in terms of giving his character more vulnerability: “I couldn’t have done it when I was 27. I mean, maybe I would’ve been better suited athletically, but in terms of my discipline, I am strangely better suited at this age. I don’t think I would’ve done justice to the emotional depth we tried to give Spike.”
“There’s always a trade-off,” he continued. “What young men are typically best at as actors is rage. And that might’ve been a more pronounced element in the character. What I’m better at, being older, is showing weakness and vulnerability and love. Those things are more accessible to me. Personally, I’d prefer the version I’m able to do now. That’s my taste.”
While the actor said he wasn’t familiar with the original series when it first premiered, he “fell in love” with the pilot script. After looking further into the series, he was pretty much sold. “It was a real gut thing,” he said. “I don’t think that I’ve ever taken a role more seriously. I don’t feel that I took any shortcuts as I’m prone to do. So even if my performance is perceived as a failure, what I will take away is I’ve improved at my craft.”
As a self-described “nonathletic person” and “nerd snob,” Cho was also excited to get a “cool lesson” in training for the physically demanding role. “For this role, everything came from training; my character decisions came from that,” he shared.
In fact, the intense training led to an unfortunate injury: Netflix halted production for more than half a year as Cho recuperated from a torn ACL. He spent months undergoing physical therapy after surgery and thought about his role constantly, recalling, “I’m at home doing these knee exercises, coming off the drugs, and I was thinking about Cowboy Bebop. Every day. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about a single role more.”
Cowboy Bebop drops on Netflix Nov. 19!
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