Now that he has a taste for the captain’s chair, Star Trek Into Darkness cast member John Cho is setting his sights his own star ship.
In the J.J. Abrams-directed 3-D sci-fi adventure opening Thursday, Lt. Hikaru Sulu (Cho) gets to sit in the cushy command spot as the Enterprise embarks on a mission from a volcanic planet to the Klingon homeland to San Francisco Bay.
Cho says he hopes Sulu will permanently be at the helm if another franchise film is made.
“It was fun to sit in the captain’s chair and Sulu, not in our movies but in the previous iterations, does get his own chair (and ship), so I hope that that is the case in ours as well … if we get that far,” he said in a recent interview.
Star Trek Into Darkness reunites the cast from Abrams’ acclaimed 2009 hit reboot of the beloved television and film franchise.
Chris Pine returns as Captain Kirk, who is hunting down a mysterious intergalactic terrorist (Benedict Cumberbatch) with his loyal crew of Sulu, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Pike (Bruce Greenwood).
Cho, who’s known for playing a stoner in the Harold & Kumar comedy trilogy, said he used to imagine flying spaceships as a little boy and it was “a literal dream come true” to join the cult phenomenon.
“When I was a kid I thought the original series was kind of hokey because of the velour and all that stuff but I liked it as well because it’s really thoughtful and interesting,” said the 40-year-old South Korean native, who popularized the slang term “MILF” in the American Pie film.
“As a kid I was so excited to see an Asian guy piloting a starship. It was so unusual at the time to see an Asian on television and so I always thought it was ahead of its time. And to have a multi-racial, multicultural crew going on a scientific mission, I thought it was — and I still think, sadly — it’s really progressive. It’s a very optimistic, beautiful vision of the human race, I think.”
George Takei played Sulu in the original Star Trek series and films and Cho admitted it was “a little nerve-wracking” taking on a character made famous by someone else.
“My impulse was, first, excitement that I got it and then, ’Oh, jeez, I’m going to screw this up,”’ said Cho, whose other credits include the “Total Recall” film remake and the recently cancelled Matthew Perry sitcom “Go On.”
“But George Takei was very complimentary and he allayed my fears a little bit. And what can you do? I feel like the pressure’s not on the actors, really, it’s on J.J., and he’s very capable of handling it, so you move on.”
Cho was also initially taken aback by the steps taken onset to maintain the secrecy of the plot and the look of the characters.
“With the first one, we couldn’t even go outside because they didn’t want people to see our costumes and take pictures, and so we had to wear these cloaks to go to the bathroom,” he recalled.
“When we were going from our trailers to the stage, they had these golf carts that had black felt curtains on them so nobody could see in. That got to be a little bit of a crazy-maker at some point, because you had to get permission to go outside and then you had to put a cloak on and it gets to be nuts.”
Cho said he also got a bit “body conscious” before the start of filming, knowing that “George Takei takes off his shirt in an episode and that dude is ripped.”
And he had to finesse his hand and wrist movements when kicking the Enterprise into warp speed.
“In the first movie when we did a closeup of going into warp speed, we did one take and Dan Mindel, our director of photography, said, ’John, um, can we do one, ah, a little sexier?”’ Cho said with a laugh.
“’Just move it sexier man. We’re going into warp speed, it’s got to be sexy.”’