John Cho Addresses ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Fans Who Think He’s Too Old: Age Was My ‘Biggest Fear’

Cho turned 49 years old this summer. His "Cowboy Bebop" character is 27 years old in the anime.
John Cho in Netflix's "Cowboy Bebop"
John Cho in "Cowboy Bebop"

Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the iconic anime “Cowboy Bebop” arrives this November with John Cho in the lead role of Spike Spiegel, and the actor knew from the start his casting would be somewhat controversial. Spike is a 27-year-old bounty hunter in the “Cowboy Bebop” anime. Cho turned 49 years old this summer. The actor was asked by Vulture about the “Cowboy Bebop” fans upset that the series did not cast a younger actor in the role, to which Cho admitted, “The biggest fear that I had was I was too old. I knew people were gonna have issues with my age. And I had to get over it.”

“I’m not a person who says age is just a number or whatever. It was gonna be harder — physically. And I was gonna look different than a 25-year-old guy,” Cho continued. “At some point, the opportunity is ‘Yes or no — do you wanna do it?’ And I did wanna do it. So I wasn’t gonna stop myself from doing it.”

For anyone who believes Cho is too old to lead “Cowboy Bebop,” the actor maintained the series benefits from him being an older actor. “First of all, I couldn’t have done it when I was 27,” Cho said. “I mean, maybe I would’ve been better suited athletically, but in terms of my discipline, I am strangely better suited at this age. I don’t think I would’ve done justice to the emotional depth we tried to give Spike. There’s always a trade-off. What young men are typically best at as actors is rage. And that might’ve been a more pronounced element in the character. What I’m better at, being older, is showing weakness and vulnerability and love. Those things are more accessible to me. Personally, I’d prefer the version I’m able to do now. That’s my taste.”

Production on “Cowboy Bebop” shut down for months after Cho tore his ACL. The injury resulted in months of physical therapy. Cho opened up to Vulture about the injury, saying he “felt very guilty that I had let the production down, and my cast, and the crew in New Zealand that had had a job, and then they didn’t the next day.”

Cho added, “I didn’t feel that I could come back and half-ass this role. I had to take it deadly seriously. It was people’s livelihoods and I wanted every single person on the set to know that I was doing my best every single day. Which sounds Boy Scout-ish, but it was the truth. Maybe it was an apology that took a whole season for me to express. Because I felt so responsible for that upheaval in a whole crew’s lives.”

“Cowboy Bebop” debuts its 10-episode first season on Netflix on November 19.

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