Born in Seoul, South Korea, John Cho BA ’96 moved to Los Angeles as a child, where his father was a Christian minister. Growing up, he never considered performing, but fell into acting as a student at UC Berkeley when filling in for an actor who was sick. “I was in this writing group,” he tells Peter Hartlaub of SFGate, “and this fellow in it was directing a play. He literally said, “How tall are you and what do you weigh?” I think somebody got sick and he needed to know if I fit the costume. It was really like two lines.”1 And the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, John Cho is one of the most popular Asian American actors of his generation. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1996, he moved back to Los Angeles and performed with the theater company while teaching seventh and tenth grade English. His breakthrough role came when he appeared in the comedy American Pie (1999) where he helped coin the phrase “MILF”. Among many films, John is best known for his role as Harold Lee in the Harold & Kumar films as well as portraying the character Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek reboot film series. Throughout his career as an actor, he has tried to avoid roles that are stereotypes of Asian Americans, turning down a role for the movie Big Fat Liar because he didn’t want to ‘do an accent’.
When asked what drew him to acting, John explained that he liked rehearsing and being around people with the same energy. As he tells Oliver Wang of the , “I liked rehearsing more than anything else. We rehearsed and performed in Room 7, which is below Zellerbach Hall. It was a black room in the basement and it was just a womb-like place that I felt safe in, and I liked meeting actors who felt crazy like me… The buzz that I get from rehearsing is probably similar to the buzz that other people get from cooking. Or music.”2 Keep an eye out for John Cho’s leading role on Connoisseur, a television drama series being developed by the USA network.
Hartlaub, Peter. “John Cho rises to the top, with Harold’s help.” SFGate. Hearst Communications, Inc. April 23, 2008. October 4, 2016.
Wang, Oliver. “The Game-Changer: An Interview with John Cho.” UCLA International Institute. The Regents of the University of California. July, 3, 2009. October 4, 2016.