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12 Quick Questions for John Cho

Engaging actor joins Season 2 of Apple TV+’s ‘The Afterparty’

spinner image john cho in tan suit jacket against yellow and green ombre background
Photo Collage: MOA Staff; (Source: Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images)

John Cho, 51, stars in Season 2 of Apple TV+’s quirky crime comedy The Afterparty.  In this new season, wedding guests become crime suspects when the groom turns up murdered. Cho shares how he chooses his roles, how his immigration story has affected his life views, and whether or not we can expect another Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle sequel.

Would you consider yourself a party person?

When I was going to parties more when I was young … I would go rolling up in a corner and people watch. I remember when I was in college [The University of California, Berkeley], I used to like to take my lunch on the steps in the big plaza there and just sit on the steps and people watch. It’s my favorite activity, maybe.

What factors persuade you to commit to an acting project, including The Afterparty?

It’s a little bit like falling in love. You can have your criteria, but you never know until you meet the script. But top of order are [the] people — cool people that you want to work with. It all just starts with the people, and then the script, and then the character.

spinner image john cho and more castmates standing in bedroom; someone's lower body could be seen on bed in a still from the afterparty
Cho, far left, stars in Season 2 of the murder mystery series “The Afterparty” on Apple TV+.
Apple TV+

Who are some “cool people” you’d like to work with in the future?
The list is quite long. There’s so many people, so little time. I’m running out of years … I admire people from many genres, but one thing that I’m keen to do moving forward is [that] I’d like to work with friends more … One of the best feelings is to return to work with someone that you really love. There’s nothing quite like it.

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Your young-adult novel, Troublemaker, narrated by a 12-year-old character, was published this year. Any plans to write another book?

I’m working on something else right now, but I’m trying to see when I can set aside time to return to that. The coolest thing about the process of releasing a book has been the new artistic community that's been made available to me — all these authors that I’ve met. Now, authors are [asking] me, “Would you read my book and blurb it?” That community has been really cool. And not incidentally, meeting teachers and librarians through the releases of the book has been really wonderful and edifying.

Why did you choose to write a book for that age group?Twelve is at an age when I was moving around quite a bit, and I felt like I was a new kid in school every six months. The constant in my life was books. I relied on them very heavily to combat loneliness and feel that there was some kind of stability in my life. I never really saw someone that looked like myself on the cover of those books that I was reading. I thought it would be just a little Christmas gift for a 12-year-old me.

What’s the first book you fell in love with?The first book that meant a lot to me personally was Little House on the Prairie. I very, very clearly saw my own family, who are immigrants, in the Ingalls family that were traveling all over America alone. So I drew very conscious parallels between my family and theirs. I think that was the first series of books that meant a lot to me personally.

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Do you remember what it felt like to immigrate to the U.S. at age 6?
It’s a curious experience to immigrate as a kid, because on the one hand you’re very adaptable, and on the other, you’re not emotionally developed enough to know, to admit, that things are difficult. So certain things seem easy to you because, for instance, you can get the language easier than your parents. But on the other hand … you’re unable to identify things that make you feel unstable, and things that are emotionally difficult can sort of slip right past you until many years later. It’s a mixed bag. In some ways I’m still kind of figuring it out — what that experience was and how it defined my life.

Is there an important life lesson, then, that you want to teach your own kids?
I don’t know that I consciously teach my kids [ages 10 and 15] a lot of stuff. The thing that I try to do most with them is to make them feel loved and safe, and then we’ll go from there. But In terms of what immigration has taught me, I think the lesson of immigration for me — and maybe I do teach it to my kids — is probably [that] you have to empathize with all human beings. You don’t know what their lives have been like up until the point you meet them.

Are we ever going to see Harold and Kumar back together again?
That would please me. I don’t know. I’m not aware of any solid plans, but we talk about it from time to time, and if there’s an opportunity, perhaps. I think some of the rights issues are a little thorny, but the creators and Kal [Penn] and I are keen. We’d love to do one. It would be real fun to do one after all these years, as we’re almost AARP members ourselves.

spinner image kal penn and john cho eating at table with a lot of mini burgers and drinks in a still from harold and kumar go to white castle
Cho and Kal Penn starred in the 2004 comedy, “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.”
New Line/Everett Collection

You’re actually already eligible for AARP membership. Speaking of, did you have a big celebration last year for your 50th?
I forget, sometimes [that] I’m 51 this year. In our house, all birthdays are kid birthdays. It’s all cakes for them and whatever they want to eat and handmade cards. It’s my favorite.

Do you think about aging, and does it give you pause?
Sure. In some ways, this age is a very strange place to be when you have kids and aging parents. You’re taking care of both sides of your family. Raising the kids, you’re seeing the beginning of one life, and closer to the end on the other end. So, yes, you’re in a position where you’re forced to reflect on your body and other bodies and also spirits and also the longevity of life, of spirit. I have all the thoughts, all the time, because you’re forced to. Being this age, you’re seeing it all and you’re in the nexus of all these lives.

What do you do to relax and feel grounded?
If I’m feeling anxious — it almost always does something for me in a good way — is to go outside, feel the wind, look at the trees … It sounds so simple, but it works for me. Everyone, if you have a park near your house, go to the park and spend half an hour there. It’ll do you good.

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