'Cowboy Bebop': How John Cho Overcame the Pressure of Playing Spike Spiegel
What would Spike Spiegel do? In a way, that’s what John Cho asked himself while on the set of Netflix‘s live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation. In recent interviews, the actor opened up about the pressure he felt to accurately portray such a beloved character. The original Cowboy Bebop anime has developed a devoted fan base since its release in the late ’90s, so many fans have high expectations for Netflix’s version. Cho feared at first that he wouldn’t be able to do Spike justice, but a few reminders helped him through.
John Cho worried how fans would react to the live-action ‘Cowboy Bebop’
As is the case with many live-action adaptations, Cowboy Bebop faced pre-release criticism from some fans regarding how closely it would follow the original. Although Cho felt thrilled to play Spike, he did take those criticisms into consideration. Speaking to Vulture in August, he admitted that he worried about the comparisons between Shinichiro Watanabe’s Cowboy Bebop and Netflix’s adaptation.
“This interview is all about me freaking out. But the amount of thought and worry and effort and number of days I’ve logged thinking about Spike is now equaling the fear I have about the reaction,” he said.
Some of the biggest concerns about the adaptation revolved around Cho’s age — he is 49, while Spike is 27. That didn’t stop him from moving forward with the role, though. Then, he worried about Netflix following the original Cowboy Bebop too closely and just doing episode remakes.
“I also thought that that was a recipe for encouraging unflattering comparisons. How could you do it better? You can’t. You have to do something a little different,” he said.
When in doubt, John Cho reminded himself of Spike Spiegel’s confidence
Despite his fears, Cho pushed himself through vigorous training and put his all into playing Spike. As he told Vulture in another interview, his concerns about portraying Spike and the show’s reception subsided over time. One of the biggest things that helped was remembering Spike’s confidence. The interview read:
And whenever Cho had any doubt about his ability to play Spike, he’d remind himself that Spike was someone “who walks around knowing he can do this,” an attitude he tried to emulate himself.
Additionally, Cho felt at ease knowing how dedicated showrunner André Nemec and his team were to honoring the original anime. In the past, Nemec has promised to maintain the essence of Cowboy Bebop’s canon while still expanding it into something fresh. That promise held true on set, as Cho said the creators often showed “passion” for the anime.
John Cho said ‘Cowboy Bebop’ was one of his ‘most challenging’ projects
Between his anxieties about Cowboy Bebop and intense physical training after a torn ACL, Cho ended up seeing Spike as his hardest role, he told HypeBeast.
“It was the most challenging role of my life. I had to express myself physically in a way I haven’t been asked to do before in terms of the action stuff,” Cho explained.
The actor added that he spent a lot of time studying Cowboy Bebop to “get a sense of how [Spike] moved.”
Then, of course, the other challenge came with honoring the anime. Cho explained that they had to toe the line between recreating Cowboy Bebop and expanding it.
“You want to feel that you have the freedom to do your own thing while honoring the original too,” he continued. “So it was definitely like walking a tight rope in that way.”
To see how it all turned out, fans can check out the live-action Cowboy Bebop when it premieres on Netflix on Nov. 19.
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