JOHN CHO: FASHIONISTO
TALKS BAKING UP PIE AND THE ETERNAL LIFE OF ONLINE PHAROAHS
During the earlier part of his career, John Cho changed the world. Perhaps not on the same scale as the invention of 3D printing or peace talks with foreign dignitaries, but his character in the movie, American Pie, helped to coin the term, “MILF” (Mom I’d Like To F*CK). This sparked a movement of middle-aged women aspiring to become MILFs themselves, as well as a stream of salacious reality TV shows based on housewives. Most significant may be the economic boom from bedazzled velour and Botox injections. Thanks to American Pie, here and forever, there will be MILFs.
Cho never anticipated the phenomenon it would become in popular culture. Fearing that it would be his only great contribution to the entertainment industry, he imagined it being engraved on his headstone. Luckily, Cho has since gone on to do a stretch of renowned titles including Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Ugly Betty, Star Trek, and Sleepy Hollow. His role in giving MILF to the world won’t be going on his tombstone, but will undoubtedly be mentioned in the obituary.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Cho came to America during his childhood and lived in a number of cities. When asked about what it was like for him growing up Asian American, Cho notes that it was an experience that has truly made him who he is today. “Growing up Asian during the 80s, it was sort of a shock in a way. You don’t think that you are different until people start telling you that you are different. In some ways, I’m thankful for it because it has made me uncomfortable in the world. I’ve taken that with me and now it’s made me who I am. It’s now a part of my identity.”
Cho finds that it is part accidental and part purposeful that he hasn’t been type-casted into stereotypical Asian characters throughout his career. He’s been able to be considered for out-of-the-box roles by saying no to things that didn’t feel right. Cho explains that before he became an actor, he imagined the process of filming to be a very intimate thing, involving just the actors, director and cameramen. Once he understood the process, he came to recognize that there was an entire crew involved in creating films. “I realized that if I did a role like that, I would have to do it in front of a lot of people and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. From the beginning, I started saying no to those types of characters. And honestly, after doing American Pie, they won’t really think of you as a Kung Fu Master.”
Currently, Cho is working on a new television show on ABC called, Selfie, a uniquely modern take on the classic tale of My Fair Lady. The main character, Eliza Doolittle (Karen Gillan), is obsessed with becoming famous and gaining followers through social media. Cho plays Henry Higenbottam, a marketing exec that is tasked with rebranding her tarnished image and helps her become a more “respectable” person. In the process, he hopes to show her that there is more to life than her online identity. Much like his character on the show, Cho is somewhat disdainful about the idea of mass self-expression on the Internet. Other than just a twitter account, he believes he tends to shy away from it altogether because of his already public persona. Although he admits to the occasion drunk tweet we have all been guilty of.
At the same time, Cho sees the use of it and has come up with a very profound theory on social media. “People who are constantly posting to twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all those other mediums are immediately able to share whatever it is they want to, practically true to time. I started to think that maybe in a sense, we are constructing an “after-life”, an idealized version of our lives that will last forever in the cloud after our bodies expire. Your existence goes on but in the way that you envision it, in its best moments. You will always live on doing the grandeurs things: eating sushi, zip-lining in Costa Rica… you are always at the Coldplay concert. It’s like we are pharaohs stuffing our “online” tombs, to be remembered the way we wish to be remembered.”
When asked if he had to write something on his tomb regarding his contribution to the term MILF, perhaps to his children, Cho decided that it would have to be either, “I’m sorry” or “You’re welcome.”
What would the world be without MILFs? We don’t even want to imagine.