John Cho Interview: Cowboy Bebop

The Netflix adaptation of Cowboy Be-bop stars John Cho as bounty hunter Spike Spiegel. The original Cowboy Bebop was released in 1998 and hailed for its sci-fi story, star-studded cast, and jazz soundtrack. The live-action series adapts the iconic anime, adding new twists and developing the stories of some of the characters while also referencing the original.

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Cho spoke with Screen about translating Spike into live action, the changes to the story, and his hopes for Season 2.

* Warning: this interview contains spoilers for Cowboy Bebop*


Spike, Faye, and Jet stand on the loading dock of their spaceship in Netflix's Cowboy Bebop.

credit: Geoffrey Short / Netflix

Screen Rant: Just to back it up, I was overjoyed when I heard you got picked for this show and it was really great watching you. First of all, what made you say yes to this role?

John Cho: I didn’t know Cowboy Bebop before playing the part. And so the first thing I did was read our script for the first season, which was really intriguing, and it was really well done. And I was like, “What is this thing?” And then I went to see the anime and watched it, and when I put the two together, I was really hooked. It was unlike anything else I had seen or read before, which is always a good place to start. It was just a really intriguing world. I could tell, right off the bat, that they were doing something really interesting, mixing all of those genres into one fun mess.

And, and I will also say while watching the anime, I was like, “This music is really different.” And it’s really individual and idiosyncratic. It was really kind of a hook for me.

The theme song is one of the greatest in television history. Netflix should remove that, that intro skip option for this one. How important was it to you to have Yoko Kanno attached to the show and to know that she was going to be a part of it?

John Cho: Well, I would have been really worried if we hadn’t had it. I keep saying that her music changes the meaning of the show, the choices she makes from scene to scene. There are scenes where I think to myself, “Oh, if I had muted the sound I would understand that the scene is A, but because she is playing this underneath, I have a different understanding of the scene. ”

So that was one of the first things we talked about. And luckily, I said, “Is Yoko Kanno coming back for this?” And I had a yes, so I felt really confident going forward because I don’t know how we could have replaced her. We could have tried to imitate him. I don’t think it would have worked.

When it came to finding out who was going to be your portrayal of Spike, what was that process like in finding the ways that could be translated into real action?

John Cho: I had never done anything like this before. He was a really interesting character, but he was also an illustration, obviously, not a human being. Because I had sort of done something like that with Star Trek and, strangely enough, I felt like I had more leeway with a human coming after an actor. I had the impression that I had to be more precise but also, I didn’t really have a roadmap.

But anyway, to answer your question, in the end, I really relied on the physical stuff. First of all, I had to develop as many skills as possible in martial arts and in combat. It really helped a lot. It gave me body language and posture and stuff. And then I started copying the way he stood and walked, and I was trying these things on for size. We wanted the characters to be recognizable as characters in the anime, but we also wanted to feel free and creative and all that. So it was definitely a mix and a mix. And I hope we got it right. But this was our first try and we just hoped it all worked.

When you sign up for the show, you will be watching the animated series. Did you have an idea of ​​the overall plan? Because the end of the anime is very limited where the live action is sort of set up for a season two and also really takes a turn.

John Cho: When we started, I had a sketch. When they introduced me to the show when we met and talked, I had a sense of the past, but they were still shaking things up. I knew that of course, we had to go further if we wanted more seasons. And so I had an idea, but I didn’t have all the details.

And it wasn’t until we got to New Zealand where we shot the show, where our showrunner really broke down exactly all season for us, but that was before all the scripts were done. It just went character by character and episode by episode, like the bedtime story style, told us it all. It took about an hour to tell us the whole story of the season. And I just remember Andre [Nemec], our showrunner, he had spots and was sweating from all the drama.

Spike takes off his sunglasses next to a table with 3 men in Cowboy Bebop.

So, how did you react when he said to you: “We’re preparing for season 2” and also the twist with Julia? She’s got a lot of agency in this show and she’s really set up as a villain. How did you react when you read this?

John Cho: It was a while. I thought it was really fascinating. It was an attempt, by Andre, I think, as you say, to give him more agency, to see what we can do. I think that was an attempt to get her out of – she’s mostly a picture and a memory, in the anime. I think he was trying to give it a more complete backstory and bring it to the present rather than the past. It was really fascinating and intriguing. I think it was exciting. It was going to be exciting that way of playing with Elena Satine, our actress, too.

You probably must have dodged 150,000 Ed questions leading up to the series. But now that the show is out, I feel like we could talk about it. What do you think of Ed joining the team for next season?

John Cho: Oh yeah. New elements, a new variable. I only had one scene with them, but just kind of a perfect energetic pitch. I was like, “This is going to be fun.”

I just remember having shot this scene with Eden [Perkins]. The energy was so intense and I was playing dead drunk and I was like, “This is very real.” They are very loud and I play very drunk and lie down in a wet street. It was a very memorable evening. And I thought, “If we get a season two, that dynamic is going to be hilarious going forward.”

What are your hopes for Cowboy Bebop season 2?

John Cho: I hope to get weirder and darker. I still hope for some reason. I also really want Spike to be happy. This season has been tough for him. I felt a lot of sympathy for him. So I hope he will have a happy moment. I predict it will be a tough road once again. However, I guess the only thing I could say is really abstract, which is, if this season was a verse, chorus, verse, chorus, I’d like to hit the middle of the eight and do a little something unusual and unexpected.

Yes. Spike just needs to go to Cinespia, go out for the night, relax a bit.

John Cho: I want him to have a good meal and a bottle of wine. Maybe two, if we’re feeling frisky, you know?

Next: Cowboy Bebop Ending Explained

Cowboy Bebop is now available to stream on Netflix.

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