You may know Korean American actor Tim Jo as the sweet, innocent alien teenager Reggie Jackson on the ABC sitcom The Neighbors, but what happens when you switch out his character’s signature polo shirts and khakis… and dress him up like a Korean pop star?
In the meantime, some Audrey Behind-the-Scenes Extras: Tim Jo’s self-described “incredible” story of how he got to Los Angeles.
It took a baseball bat to his head – literally – for Jo to take the leap of faith that would kick-start his professional acting career.
“Just give me 10 years,” Tim Jo told his mother, when she gave him her blessing to move to Los Angeles. “Maybe I’ll be on TV or something.”
Tim Jo was always a good kid. Growing up in Texas and Poland as the token Asian boy, he had his share of innocent rebellions – hanging out with the skaters, growing his hair out long, listening to punk music that his parents didn’t understand – but he wasn’t the type of son who risk worrying his mom and dad by impulsively moving to Hollywood if they did not approve.
After he graduated college, he was going to pursue acting the responsible way. He would stay close to home and chase local performing opportunities in Austin and Dallas. He would further his studies by earning a Master of Fine Arts in Theater.
Without two back-to-back strokes of bad luck, he might have stayed in Texas.
First, he was given a verbal acceptance to graduate school in acting, only to be strung along for months and told four weeks before the start of the school year that they had to rescind his acceptance. The school had decided to “go in another direction,” and Jo’s plans were suddenly thwarted, causing him to question his future and landing him in a temporary funk.
The second event was more serious. After a few months of trying to move forward from this rejection, Jo was out with his friends, and four of them got jumped by a gang of guys with baseball bats. One second, Jo was confused about an innocent misunderstanding, and the next second, all he remembers is: “Bam, bam, bam. Knock, knock, boom!”
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Jo. When the cops showed up, Jo’s head was dripping with blood. Even though they were all okay, Jo still has what he calls “a Harry Potter scar” from the attack.
“My mom knew that I wanted to be an actor but that I was stalling,” says Jo. “That’s when she said, ‘Look, you can pursue them legally, try to get these guys in jail, go through months and months of testifying. Or you can just get out of here. Move to LA, and I’ll give you my full support.’”
Ten weeks after moving to Los Angeles, Jo booked Bandslam, his first role in a Hollywood film. Then, he landed a guest role on the ABC Family comedy Greek. After that, Jo became a main cast member on the short-lived TBS series Glory Daze.
And exactly 10 years since he first decided to pursue acting as an undergraduate student, he landed the The Neighbors, an offbeat comedy helmed by Dan Fogelman, the writer of Cars, Tangled, and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Jo plays Reggie Jackson, a teenage alien who is trying to blend into the human world, and the series currently airs Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.
“All of this was possible because my parents were always very supportive,” emphasizes Jo.
He suddenly pulls out a card out of his wallet that he’s eager to share. It’s his mother’s old driver’s license from when she was in her late ‘20s.
“My mom is so pretty,” Jo says, proudly. “When she was my age, she was doing modeling in Korea, and she actually wanted to be an actress herself. But her father was a pastor, so there’s no way she could have done it. There was a part of me that saw my mom’s passion, and I wanted to do this for her.”
He continues: “The passion gets you the work. You can book jobs because you’ve got that passion built up inside of you. But in the end, it’s the family and friends that drive you and keep you afloat.”