Who knew John Cho, a pastor’s son, would break barriers playing a stoner?
ISSUE: Winter 2011-12
STORY: Janice Jann
What did happen was Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, released in 2004, went on to commercial success and launched Cho’s and costar Indian American Kal Penn’s careers to leading men status. “I was just happy somebody found it,” says Cho of the film, which centers on two lovable stoner buddies. “I found it was too unique a take and too ‘warm’ a movie for anyone not to like it.”
The third film is even “warmer.” “We think it’s our strongest movie,” says Cho. “The movies — as raunchy as they are — have a very sweet side to them. The humor is not malicious or crass or creepy.”
It’s the sweetness of the films that have made Cho’s father, a former minister, comfortable enough to accept. “Both my parents are also cognizant of how much ground this film has broken, how unusual it is we’re headlining a movie in the U.S. They’re definitely proud of that aspect,” says Cho. “Recently, I took my dad to the White House for a state dinner. We met [South Korean] President Lee and President Obama in one night. This movie is part of how we got there. So if you’re my dad, you can’t hate on the movie.”
Cho understands that there are some haters who say that he and Penn are poorly representing Asians in the media. To them, he says, “There was a time I knew every Asian in [Hollywood]. But now they’re everywhere. It’s a great feeling ‘cause you don’t want just one person to change the industry — you want a plurality of representation. One movie shouldn’t have the onus of representing Asians. We want so many movies that no one can point to one and say, ‘that represents Asians.’ As artists, we shouldn’t have that weight on our backs.”
— Janice Jann