Cho On Fight Training + A Korean Playing Sulu

While attending the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival last week (where we reported he arrived with a ‘Star Trek wrist injury’) John Cho did a couple of interviews. The actor joked he got injured “going for the almond dispenser” at craft services, but also talked about fight training and also gave his thoughts on being a Korean American playing Sulu.

From Groucho Reviews, Cho on fight training:

…that the training was great. I really appreciated kind of a preparation time as far as fight training and stuff, because it was sort of like simulating the Starfleet Academy. And it just felt like we’d gone through something together. And it was exhausting, you know. So that just kind of put me in a kind of a military mindset.

…and if he is concerned about keeping in shape for a decade for sequels

Uh, yes, I’ve made a deal with the devil…..And hopefully that’ll—no, yeah, yeah, I do have some concerns, and we’ll see. But maybe my Asian genes will come into play

From New American Media, on how he feels about “playing a Japanese character, being a Korean American?”

I don’t feel like it has any particular bearing on this role because he is Japanese American. I wouldn’t take a part that is Japanese from Japan, or a recent Japanese immigrant, because I don’t think there is a way that I could do that accent really effectively and convincingly.

As far as the surname goes and cultural background, I think it’s irrelevant. I think it’s more, “Can you be convincing as an actor?” Sometimes you’re better off casting someone who is really from that culture because the role calls for an accent that’s going to be convincing. But I talked to George (Takei, the actor who first played Sulu) about it, and he said that (Gene) Roddenberry’s original intent was that everybody on the bridge of the Enterprise was supposed to represent the entire world. He said that Sulu was supposed to represent the continent of Asia. They didn’t have a specific cultural origin for him before the show was cast. Then George was cast and they needed to come up with a name. Gene was looking at a map and saw the name Sulu Sea and it bordered multiple Asian countries, and he thought that this was kind of a Pan-Asian name. When they came up with a first name, George is Japanese American, so they give him the name Hikaru. But the intent was not really to create a Japanese-specific character, the intent was to create a Pan-Asian character.

Injured doing something ‘important’
New American Media also had a pic of Cho (w/ bandage) and the following caption:
With deadpan sarcasm Cho said he hurt his hand doing “something very important on set.”

More at Groucho Reviews and New American Media

Image courtesey of New American Media

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Does George have a son?

Decloaking . .
Me thinks Cho likes this job called Sulu.

It would have been nice to find someone that looked a lot more like Takei

I’m pretty sure George doesn’t have a son.


2 for 2 bud. Wanna go for the hat trick?

It seems to me that Cho is taking the part seriously. Sporting some battle damage in the name of Trek. Look-alikes arent what’s important; great portrayals are. Takei is good with it, so who am I to argue.

Totally enthused about Cho; he’s likeable and I think he’ll bring a lot to the part (well, a lot relative to the size of the role, anyway … I keep hoping for an ensemble-focus but I know how impractical that is … one of the drawbacks of the Big Screen is how … small it is, in some ways).

Well, if the Enterprise ever finds itself needing White Castle, they’ll know the way.

Sulu is a decidedly un-Japanese name. There’s no L distinct from R. Though by the 23rd century these distinctions may be all mixed up anyway.

Cho has enough presence to make Sulu distinctive. I think he’ll do the character justice.

Poor John looks tired, haggerd and in pain in that photo. Would love to know how many aliens he took out before he was wounded. Wonder if that particular footage will be used in the film… Stanislavsky would approve.

“Sulu” was actually named after Herb Solow.

‘”going for the almond dispenser” at craft services’

LMAO I like this kid’s sense of humor. I think he’s gonna be OK – he gets Uncle Viking’s seal of approval. And he takes the right tack with that whole ‘a Korean playing Sulu’ nonsense: in the final analysis, who gives a shit what part of Asia his family is from? I’m of German extraction to the core, but I could easily pass as a Dane, a Swede, a Swiss, an Austrian, or one of any other nationalities from that part of the world. Jeezus, that sort of hair-splitting is bordering on childishness.

I’ve long wondered if Sulu was named for the Sulu Sea. I had sort of imagined that Roddenberry had perhaps flown over or near it during WWII. It was nice to see someone connected with the show verify my suspicion.

Now Dennis Bailey ruins my theory!! Curse you, Dennis! ;-)

Where did you hear the Sulu/Solow story, Dennis, and did the Sulu Sea come into play with its spelling transformation?

Scott B. out.

#1 George T does not have a son, he has a partner for a long time. #3 As far as Cho looking like Sulu, it would be nice if looked more like Sulu, there must be something JJ liked in him for him to land the role. Put some makeup on him, uniform and his ability to play the part, we should be alright.

With all the time before the movie comes out, its going to be tough living on tidbits of what these actors are doing after shooting stops.

Maybe talk about the soon to be released Cloverfield DVD with alternate endings. :-)

sorry, cloverfield never really did have an ending. .

I was under the impression they main characters died when NY was nuked.

the pic above looks like a mugshot

I hate the fact that so many people are so hung up on “does look enough like ??”

I just don’t think it matters all that much, if at all.

My 2 cents…

I think it’s pretty doubtful that George has a kid, given that he’s not really, ya know, fond of one of the necessary components in making one. ;)

I think this guy is gonna make a lousy Sulu…sorry, had to say it.

The only TOS re-cast member I’m happy with is Zachary Quinto.

This is unrelated, but related in a way…

Is that the new Chekov on the Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode playing on Bravo right now in Eastern time?

“I’m pretty sure George doesn’t have a son.”

Two words: Dick Sargent.

#4 no he has a daughter….watch star trek generations..


I cannot wait to see this film… And I am really annoyed at all the rants and raves that go on about Trek, ANY Trek, from TOS to ENT… ‘Is it canon?’ ‘Yes it is!’ ‘No it’s not!’ ‘What if this?’ ‘What if that?’ IMHO, Trek IS Trek, and that includes ALL Trek… If it’s on the screen, whether we like it or not, (and there’s not much I don’t like,) then it’s official Trek. Most of the arguing online these days isn’t like the fun old ‘which ship was fastest?’ or ‘who’s the better captain?’ It’s just ‘I hate’ and ‘because.’ No wonder ENT got canned. One day there may be NO Trek at all anymore! Just live and let live and love Trek!

– 14

off topic – i think the new cloverfield will be a POV style from the monsters perspective…..

.. mayby beginning with the monster finding the bizzarly tough camera attached to half that body, going “ooooo” in a moster type way….then proceeding to film his ongoing destruction of american cities whilst giving monster commentry….like “grrr” or even “rrrrggggahhh”…

ya listening JJ!! This is plot gold-dust i have here!!!

maybe set it in a uk city…… slough…just to make it exotic…..:)

Actually, someone should let Cho know that it was novelist Vonda McIntyre in the first non-tie-in Pocket Star Trek novel (#2, Entropy Effect, the TMP novelization was #1) who donned the name Hikaru.

Before that, the running gag during TOS days was that Sulu’s first name was *Walter*, based on a recurring joke I believe after a director kept confusing Walter K.’ sChekov and George T.’s Sulu for some strange reason, calling Walter George, and George Walter.

But Hikaru did catch on and become official in, erm… ST VI? Someone look that up quick.

In any event, Solow also later got his first name memorialized too… as anyone who’s Herbert knows ;)

sorry, something off-topic:

seems as if clifton collins jr. has also shaved his head for his Romulan part.

1. george takei was married long ago and had a daughter.

Every time I see this guy now, John Cho that is! He is reminding me of Takei more and more..I believe there are always possibilities. Maybe that fencing foil angle is what they are going to be coming from. Who knows??

He’s Sulu alright.

#20 – TrekNerd

Yes, it is… :-D I saw that episode a few weeks ago and I think Anton did a pretty good job in it.


Takei has never been married. Unless you’re making a joke about Sulu having a daughter, of course.

He looks nothing like George, this could be the worst casting move yet.

I would love to play ensign ricky. One could milk conventions for life. JJ if you read this, hook me up!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am so sick and tired of hearing the whiners complain about it not being cannon and the actors looks nothing like the original stars.

You know that TOS didn’t even respect cannon within itself.. TMP wasn’t cannon… TWOK wasn’t cannon… and TWOK was the best Trek movie.

Who cares if the actors don’t look EXACTLY like the original actors… you will never get that. Unless they hired the guy from New Voyages as Chekov… he is actually really good and looks like Walter Koenig.

I am waiting to see the movie in full before I make any judgements. If cannon and look alikes are that important for your enjoyment of this movie.. then DON’T see it.

I think JJ is going to do a great job and give the original Trek a much needed updating. I think he has done an excellent job in casting.. except for Anton.. He’s a fine actor but i feel looks too young for the part. But I will have to wait and see how he does when the film is out.

I think a much bigger problem than a Korean playing Sulu is the unfortunate fact that a full blood Earther like Quinto is playing Spock. And is Pine from Iowa?

Scott wrote:

> I’ve long wondered if Sulu was named for the Sulu Sea.

Correct. Contrary to what others may say, George Takei confirmed it himself. How so? I went for an autograph from George a few years ago at a Sacramento Creation Convention, and George recognizing that I was Filipino said, “You know… the character of Sulu was named for the Sulu Sea by the Philippines.”

I’ve said it before… I cannot wait for this movie to come out! Anyone notice how little focus is being given to Chris Pine? Talk about drumming up the anticipation factor.

Having met Mr. Takei at a local convention (in South Bend, IN) methinks John Cho has some big shoes to fill (and I’m sure he, as the rest of the cast, will rise to the occasion).

#32 —

Except for Quinto (and MAYBE Pine from certain angles), I don’t think any of the new actors look like the original — it’s not limited to John Cho — but so what? I’d rather have a decent actor who understands the role rather than a look-alike anyway. From what I’ve read, Cho seems to understand the role.

If you want to base your casting on looks (which I don’t), then I would say the Simon Pegg or Bruce Greenwood was the “worst” casting yet — however I personally think both were a great choice.

My “resemblance list” from worst to best would be as follows: Greenwood, Pegg, Cho, Saldana, Yelchin, Urban, Pine, then Quinto. With a little makeup and hair styling, all of these actors can have at least a “passing resemblance” to the original…however some more than others.

#26 – I was wondering if the Romulans were originally supposed to be bald or something like nosferatu. This may have been discussed somewhere else. Does anyone know?

The big question is, can he do the Sulu dance?

#15 – I guess I won’t see Cloverfield after all. Thanks.

#12: “Where did you hear the Sulu/Solow story, Dennis, and did the Sulu Sea come into play with its spelling transformation?”

The real story comes as a brief aside in Justman and Solow’s book about the making of the original series, which is worth finding – it does a great deal to demythologize the making of “Star Trek” and fill in the details of how things actually got done on the show, and who actually did them. It’s quite fair to Roddenberry.

Roddenberry came to resent Solow over the years after TOS, for unknown reasons (GR wouldn’t say and no one else including Solow seems to care) and pretty systematically ignored him. Justman and Solow are more credible for many reasons, not least because they are in most cases much more specific than other writers and a great deal less ego-involved on the nearly narcissistic level of some Trek luminaries.

The “Sulu sea” story, like the current iterations of many stories told by the surviving TOS cast, has grown up over the years of these folks being endlessly interviewed as celebrities – if one has followed Trek since the beginnings, it’s not hard to remember that the earliest appearances of these tales are in many cases decades after the fact.

There’s a peculiar and anachronistic scene that was cut from “The Corbomite Manuever” – probably before shooting – but which can be found in the original script that gives a sense of just how “enlightened” the producers’ thinking was about asian culture in 1965. It’s an extended humorous riff on “inscrutable orientals.” One would be tempted to rationalize this lapse by suggesting that the GR cut the scene because upon reading the author’s draft he realized that it was potentially offensive – except for the fact that Roddenberry lifted and incorporated a key line from it into his character description of Sulu for the “Star Trek Phase II” bible.


Bravo, Dennis. Well, said.

The Justman / Solow book is a very authoritative source for all of the reasons you cite. Because these gentlemen were industry professionals with no need “to spin the mythos”, they could look at those first three years more objectively that others.

#42 Yes, but they do need to sell books. Nothing sells books better than “new insight and revelations”. I’m not calling them untrue, just a different point of view, which should be taken into consideration of previous writings and statements by creator, cast and crew.

And all this ta-doo about an actor having to be Japanese to play Sulu. Why? Sulu was raised (notice I didn’t say ‘reared’) in San Francisco. So other than apocryphal tales about him being Japanese, having said “samurai” one time, and first given a Japanese first name in a novel, what other proof of Sulu being definately Japanese is there? He fenced with an epee’, he liked plants and was pretty good at driving starships. Oh wait, one time I think I remember him using an apparently Asian martial arts chop on a guy. I don’t remember anywhere it said in a episode or movie, “that Japanese guy, Sulu”. No. Sulu is Sulu. Let the actor be whomever he may be in real life, and let his acting do the part of showing us Sulu.

My Gods! Wait… is Chris Pine a Canadian Jew who hates Kresge’s chicken salad? No?? HE MUST NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH TO PLAY KIRK!! See… that’s plain silly. And so is all this fuss about Cho.

Now. back to an earlier comment about White Castle– Back in the early 70s, White Castle used the Star Ship Enterprise (or, actually, an AMT kit) to sell their burgers in a TV commercial. Complete and blatant running amok with the illicit use of Paramount’s property, mind you, but this was before Trek had built it’s cult following and Paramount gave a darn. So… it all comes full circle. I wonder if White Castle has approached Paramount for a tie-in promotion? :-)

Happy Monday, everyone!

#41/42: Agreed. “Inside Star Trek: The Real Story ” by Solow and Justman is a good behind-the-scenes look at the making of TOS, and it shows the politics and the workings of the industry at that time. Off subject, but I thought it was interesting how Lucille Ball, who owned Desilu and whom Solow had to deal with, initially thought Star Trek was about a USO troop in the South Seas. Very interesting and informative book.

#43 – it was fruit salad if I remember correctly. >;>}

I thought I might point something out if it hasn’t already been stated.

To the folks who seem to be upset that a Korean is portraying a Japanese character, might I remind you that Simon Pegg isn’t Scottish. And I”m pretty certain that Zoe Saldana isn’t from Africa.

Can we move on, now?


Yeah, I’ve got that book. It gives a little more grounded slant on the mythos we’ve all come to know.

When I read Whitfield’s “The Making Of Star Trek” in 1969 it was the first lucid explanation I’d run across regarding how a television series is made, the relationship between producers and studios and networks, what the various aspects and stages of production are and so forth. It was really eye-opening.

Reading “Inside ‘Star Trek'” over three decades later was a similar experience – except that it filled in the nuts and bolts and the financial realities, elaborated on the incidents and the people who were mentioned in passing in the earlier book, and gave a much more balanced portrayal of how such an industry can actually function – one might be forgiven for concluding (as many fans did) from Whitfield’s book that TV and movies consists of a few misunderstood geniuses fighting an endless sea of knaves and idiots in order to get anything done. :)

#43 d’oh! Sorry- I was cross-circuiting the tribbles getting into Kirk’s chicken sandwich and coffee. My bad.

Dennis Bailey wrote:

> The real story comes as a brief aside in Justman and Solow’s book about
> the making of the original series, which is worth finding…

I have the Inside Star Trek book. Page number, please.