John Cho Took on Superhero Training for His Role in the Live-Action ‘Cowboy Bebop’

There’s a lot riding on John Cho in Cowboy Bebop. So far, live-action remakes of beloved anime haven’t been received well, so there’s been some concern over the Cowboy Bebop series. Casting has been announced, and Cho was cast as Spike Spiegel. He recently talked about the challenges of the role, including how he trained for it.

John Cho plays Spike in ‘Cowboy Bebop’

John Cho 'Cowboy Bebop' wearing headphones dressed as Spike Spiegel
John Cho as main character Spike Spiegel in ‘Cowboy Bebop’ | via Netflix

Cho had some time to really get into Spike’s head. While filming the first few scenes for the Netflix show, Cho tore his ACL. He had to have surgery to repair it. Cho said he spent his time in recovery doing knee exercises and thinking about the lead character of Cowboy Bebop. 

Spike is far different from the characters that Cho usually plays. The lead character of Cowboy Bebop is suave and droll, with a penchant for action. Cho is, as he said himself, non-athletic. He’s got the hair to play the role, though. Spike’s pouf is iconic, and it turns out that Cho’s natural hair is just thick and wavy enough to pull it off without a wig. “I really didn’t want a wig,” said Cho in his interview with Vulture.

The training for the role wasn’t easy

Cho had to train like a superhero for the role of Spike. There’s a shirtless scene in the first episode and Cho called that “really stressful.” Like those in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and similar action roles, had to work out and diet in order to get the physique for the lean gunslinger and bounty hunter. He had talked about how he didn’t want to “diet and work out like crazy” in an earlier interview, but he did do some for this role.

Cho had to watch what he ate, and he said the training was to become “functionally athletic.” Unfortunately, all that training didn’t help much when he fell during filming. He attributed it to lack of sleep. He fell and tore his ACL, which required surgery, and put a halt on filming for a time. 

At the time, Netflix didn’t say why filming stopped, but Cho was forthright about his injury. He said that all he did was think about Spike Speigel while recovering.

What was John Cho’s biggest fear about playing Spike?

Cho hates to disappoint anyone. With Cowboy Bebop being one of the best animes to grace television, the chance of disappointing fans could be high. In fact, there’s already been some backlash over a costuming change for one character. In addition, the music is considered iconic. And Cho wants to do all of it justice.

One of the biggest concerns to some is Cho’s age. He’s 49. Spike Spiegel is canonically 27. Cho addressed this by acknowledging that people might have issues with his age, but said that ultimately it came down to whether he wanted to do it or not. “I did wanna do it,” he said, “so I wasn’t gonna stop myself from doing it.”

At first, Cho didn’t know the anime source in question. But when he watched it, he knew that he was doing something special. He called it “the most unique piece of entertainment I had seen in a long time.” 

Catch Cho as Spike when Cowboy Bebop premieres on Netflix on November 19, 2021.

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