Cowboy Bebop Star John Cho Has Never "Taken A Role More Seriously"

John Cho has been appearing in feature films for over twenty years, but his role in Netflix's upcoming "Cowboy Bebop" series presented one of his greatest challenges. Cho plays Spike Spiegel, one of the bounty hunters aboard the spaceship Bebop in this live-action adaptation of the popular anime series.

It's an action-heavy role, and, while filming, the 49-year-old Cho tore the ACL ligament in his knee. As it turned out, this impacted the whole cast and crew, leading to a production shutdown while Cho had to undergo physical therapy.

Speaking to Vulture (by way of Collider), he explained:

"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."

The Benefits of Age

"Cowboy Bebop" certainly looks cool, and Cho looks more ripped than he ever has onscreen. We've seen him fencing as Sulu in "Star Trek," but that was over a decade ago and it sounds like "Cowboy Bebop" put more physical strain on him as an actor. At the same time, his age may have enabled him to give a deeper dimension to Spike as a character:

"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. 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."

For "Cowboy Bebop" fans, there's a lot riding on this live-action adaptation, but Netflix appears to be going all-in on it, with a blitz of books and comics exploring more of the show's universe. Cho himself was new to the franchise; his first exposure to it came through the script for episode 1. It made him fall in love with the world of "Cowboy Bebop," and we can only hope it will have the same effect on first-time viewers while doing right by the original Japanese source material.

"Cowboy Bebop" hits Netflix on November 19, 2021.