Searching Interview: John Cho on Sundance, Diversity, and Technology Filmmaking
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with John Cho to talk about his new film Searching which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in January. The film follows David Kim (John Cho), a father whose daughter goes missing. The film is told entirely through technology and is easily one of the most innovative and brilliant films of 2018. I got to talk with John about the film being at Sundance, diversity, and what it was like to act against technology.
Scott Menzel: Hi John, congratulations on the film.
John Cho: Thanks.
Scott Menzel: I was there at the world premiere of this film at Sundance.
John Cho: Oh you were? Oh cool.
Scott Menzel: Yes. And to see you so emotional and choked up after that movie was really special I feel.
John Cho: It was really weird … it took me by surprise. For some reason, I hadn’t reflected on it while we were making it, but I think it was due to just how important Sundance is to me in my mind. It started a long time ago with Better Luck Tomorrow. For me, Sundance has been a special place and an important place for American movie makers. To be there and watch the audience watch this Asian family that looked like mine was very moving.
Scott Menzel: Yeah. It was and that actually added another layer to the movie for me, seeing how emotional you were after.
John Cho: Yeah.
Scott Menzel: You probably don’t even remember, but I came up to you after the film to say congratulations and you gave me a hug and everything because you were so moved.
John Cho: I get huggy.
Scott Menzel: I’m so glad that you were able to do this. Do you feel between this movie and Crazy Rich Asians that there’s going to be more doors opened for representation in the Asian community?
John Cho: I hope so. What I like about it is that there are multiple things happening. That’s where I want to go so that no one has to be the fill in the blank, the Asian actor or the Asian movie, the Asian director. I think that’s not how we move forward. I think it’s like a whole bunch of people telling their stories and when that happens nobody has to carry that mantle alone. I think whatever issues we’re dealing with naturally resolve themselves when more and more people are speaking.
Scott Menzel: I hope so too. This movie for you, what did you think of it when you got the script initially?
John Cho: I was excited. I wanted to play in this space, the genre, the thriller space and it was just a real page-turner in a script form. I was like, “What’s going on? Who did it? The concept of shooting on devices was something that I wasn’t interested in. I was scared off because I didn’t really want to make something that looked cheap. I wanted to make a movie, so I said, “No,” at first and then I met with Aneesh and he assured me that the feeling that I had read the script, that cinematic feeling, was going to be retained. He showed me how he intended to do it on his laptop. When I was assured of that and in meeting him, I was on board with him as a person, so I said, “Yes.”
Scott Menzel: I asked Debra this question and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. As an actor, you’ve been very established. You’ve done a lot of TV work. You’ve done a lot of movies. What was the biggest challenge for you to film something like this?
John Cho: I will echo what I think Debra’s answer is because we’re of the same generation, not acting with people. It’s just really weird because I rely on that. I rely on eyes and frankly, it just makes it easier to be truthful. That was the strangest part of the whole thing.
Scott Menzel: Well thank you again for this interview. It was great seeing you again.
John Cho: You too.
Scott Menzel: Congratulations again, man.
John Cho: Thank you!