While preparing to play the intergalactic bounty hunter Spike Spiegel for Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the beloved space-Western Japanese anime Cowboy Bebop, John Cho admits that an on set injury affected his relationship to the project. In an interview with Vulture, Cho says it was during physical therapy for his injury that he knew he had to take the role “deadly seriously.”
In 2019, we reported that Cho had been involved in a “freak injury” that put production on a months-long hiatus, and he now reveals that he tore his ACL while filming (apparently Netflix did not want to publicize his injury at the time). In the Vulture piece he recalls, “It was real wonky. We had been shooting all night, and I was doing kind of an athletic move as the sun was coming up. It was probably a lack of sleep. Just a little move and [I was down]... Then you have your surgery and you go into rehab. I’m at home doing these knee exercises, and coming off the drugs, I was thinking about Cowboy Bebop. Doing those knee exercises, I was like, I gotta put my focus into this... I felt very guilty that I had let the production down, and my cast, and the crew in New Zealand that had had a job, and then they didn’t the next day. And I didn’t feel that I could come back and half-ass this role. I had to take it deadly seriously.”
Cho’s age is also part of what pushed him to improve upon his acting and athletic performance for the upcoming series. The 49-year-old star plays a character nearly half his age, which only encouraged him to approach Spike from a different angle than he would have 20 years ago. “The biggest fear that I had was I was too old,” he admits. “I knew people were gonna have issues with my age. And I had to get over it. I’m not a person who says age is just a number or whatever. It was gonna be harder—physically.” However, he wasn’t willing to let any of that stop him. In fact, he says he thinks he’s actually “better suited at this age” because he’s able to portray Spike with the correct amount of “emotional depth.” He adds, “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.”
Cho says that no matter how his performance of Spike is perceived by audiences, he will consider it a win as he bolstered his acting skills in areas that are important to him. “I don’t think that I’ve ever taken a role more seriously,” he explains.
Cowboy Bebop stars Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, Elena Satine, and Alex Hassell, with Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman co-directing the series. The 10-episode season is set to premiere on Netflix on November 19.