In 2017, when it was first announced that the Cowboy Bebop live action series was happening, many fans asked an obvious question: who plays Spike Spiegel ?? It took a while to find the right fit, but when Netflix revealed that John Cho would take on the role, I felt like this adaptation was in very good hands.
The actor, who’s starred in almost everything Under the Sun, certainly knows how to bring an iconic character to life … so it’s a bit of a surprise when he talks about the challenges of taking Spike Spiegel.
Cosmopolitan spoke to John Cho about the role of the legendary Spike, the scariest scene in the anime he has filmed, and why the show now holds a special place in his heart.
First off: who is Spike Spiegel?
If you haven’t listened to the original anime, you’re missing out on one of the greatest characters of all time. Spike Spiegel is the main protagonist of Cowboy Bebop. Known for his tough martial arts skills, luscious hair, and love of food, Spike is a bounty hunter with a troubled past thanks to his history with the Red Dragon Syndicate. He is funny, charming and a little impulsive. In other words, he’s a bit of everything.
âI was like, ‘It’s just like a chance to do all of these things that I want to do all at once and do it in a very unique way,â Cho said. Cosmos about playing Spike. “The way it was started it just seemed like an interesting [character]. He played with all of those iconic tropes and put a really interesting individual touch to it. We got around a lot of basics at the same time and we were able to come up with something very unique. “
Spike’s relationships with fellow Bebop members Jet Black and Faye Valentine bring out different sides of him that also make John feel like he’s playing in different genres at the same time.
âAs always, you kind of always rely on the page and you rely a lot on the other actors. Some characters, like Faye Valentine, I felt like I was in a wacky 1930s comedy a lot,â a- he revealed. “And then with Jet, I would be in a buddy cop movie. And with Vicious, it’s obviously a high Shakespearean drama. It kind of depended on the relationships and the scenes.”
Unlike most of the other characters who stick with melee combat and basic weapons (mostly guns in this series), Spike is known for his impressive martial arts skills, something John has had to learn to bring the character to life.
âHe’s a very stylish and very cool fighter. Sometimes I feel like he’s really detached while he’s fighting. He’s extremely good and obviously I wasn’t going to become a super expert in all areas, but we’ve learned so many different types of fashions. [The training] was very intense and we started as soon as I got the part, âhe said. âI learned like Taekwondo and boxing, tumbling, Wing Chun and Kung Fu. Obviously there was also work with knives, forks and guns. So I was really becoming kind of a fan of different ways of killing people. “
In fact, Spike’s training style is so iconic that John was nervous when it came to recreating his training streak in Episode 1.
âI had to do the sequence on the wooden dummy on the Bebop and this particular discipline is very unusual in terms of balance and footwork, and there are very strict angles. It’s very precise. I couldn’t. Not using a stuntman at all in that streak so there was nowhere to hide. It was completely me, âsaid John.â And so I was especially proud of that one. It was really interesting to learn. “
John talks about getting into the character of Spike
For many actors, being offered the role of Spike Spiegel would have been an automatic yes. But for John, he immediately wanted to do his research first.
“I didn’t know what Cowboy Bebop was until I got the offer. The first call I made was for Aneesh Chaganty, who made a movie that I called Slisten. He was young and cool and would know everything. And so I called him up and said, ‘Hey, I got this stuff. Apparently it’s based on an anime. Do you know? It’s called Cowboy Bebop. ‘ And he went mad. He asked, ‘What a character.’ And I said, ‘Let me look at the email … It’s Spike Spiegel.’ And he said, ‘You have to do it. You just have to do it. ‘”
Soon John would go straight into the anime and fall in love with it almost immediately. âI read our script first, then I watched the anime. It’s very unique. My first impression of the show was how much it mixed up all of those genres that I was interested in. : western and noir, action and comedy. And the music was so amazing. “
Playing a beloved character has its perks, especially since the series has been around for 20 years and Spike’s story has been discussed, dissected, and discussed at length. But bringing it to life came with a big question: How well would Netflix follow the anime?
âIt’s always a tightrope that you walk between how much you quote from the original and how far you go. You want things to be recognizable. Cowboy Bebop and also you want to feel free and creative. It was really cool because, while you can illustrate these characters in the present tense and not explain their story, if you have a group of actors [playing them], they’re going to ask what happened, “said John.” We have to know what the whole story is in order to play any time in the present. You have to ask, “So where did he grow up?” Where was he born? What is this relationship? What happened between these two people all those years ago? Having that kind of full explanation for us on screen and playing those moments was really cool. It was like a real saga of a character. It’s always fun to do. “
Why it’s more than just a live adaptation
John understands fans who might care Cowboy Bebop come to life in a whole new way. After all, this isn’t the first time he’s joined a beloved world.
âPeople are definitely going to have strong feelings about it. I understand that because the original was so fantastic. Obviously, I felt a lot of anxiety and pressure to take on this project, because it would be crazy if I didn’t. I would be a weirdo. But I walked in like Star Trek in the same way, “he said Cosmos. “Our intentions are to do it in the most respectful and reverent way possible. And we can’t really control the outcome or the reception or the way the outcome is perceived. People may disagree, but people recognize that it was done. And if we missed the mark, then we missed the mark. But our intentions are true. “
But even with all the pressures behind the story of the show, there is a special part that John will take away from it no matter what. “It’s an honor to be involved in something – a piece of culture – that is totally international and that comes from Asia. I just feel like it’s a special mark in my career.”
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