The ABC comedy series Selfie follows social media superstar Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan), who realizes that even though she has over 250,000 followers, being friended is not the same as having actual friends. As a result, she enlists co-worker and marketing guru, Henry (John Cho), to rebrand her self-obsessed reputation and teach her how to connect with people in the real world.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actor John Cho talked about what attracted him to Selfie, how much he’s enjoyed being involved with Sleepy Hollow, trying to balance both shows, having always been drawn to comedy, how much he enjoys working with Karen Gillan, the correlation between fatigue and breaking into the giggles on set, and how he feels about the world of social media. He also talked about what he’d like to see for Sulu in Star Trek 3. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: This is such a different type of project from anything we’ve seen you do before. What was the attraction of Selfie, for you?
JOHN CHO: The show definitely has a romantic construct, and that’s a genre that I’ve never had access to, in a significant way. This interesting for me to see, as an Asian guy, just standing back. I just wanted to break my way into a different genre. I was tickled that it was offered to me. Karen [Gillan] is a terrific actress, and she was on before me, so I went for it. With Sleepy Hollow, I knew nothing of where that would go, and they didn’t really, either. It’s a trust exercise with television. It’s almost like a dare. What can I say? It’s been unbelievable. But I was seeing the best of it, as I was reading, because I knew who was behind it. With this, I met Emily [Kapnek] and went, “Holy shit, I like this person. I think she’s so smart and so funny.” I wanted to know her, and I figured I could follow her into this. She starts with characters and lets it go from there. I think you get the most interesting results, that way. Also, I don’t know if there’s any other way to do television except for building out the characters. With Sleepy Hollow, as much mythology as there is on that show, I don’t think it works without Tom [Mison] and Nicole [Beharie] being who they are and bringing what they do. What Tom brings is just not on the page. You just work on developing the characters, and that relationship is so interesting and so cute, and heavy and light when it needs to be. They’re supposed to be together, in some weird way. That’s what the show is really about, emotionally.
Are you going to be able to continue to do both shows?
CHO: I think there are contractual problems with me doing more than a couple, but I would love to go back. I just have a lot of fondness for that show, and for the people. When you get something off the ground, it’s fantastic and you feel really close to that group of people. Wherever Selfie goes, the fact that we birthed it, we’ll always be tied together that way.
When you did that first episode of Sleepy Hollow, did you have any idea where your character was going to go, and just how integral he would become to the story?
CHO: No. It was an interesting premise, and I figured that any [Alex] Kurtzman/[Bob] Orci show always has a good shot because they’re good storytellers. And then, Len [Wiseman] brought this look to it. But I remember being in the make-up trailer and seeing Tom and Nicole, and they’d been to some event and they said, “It was weird, people were crying and weeping.” I thought they were joking. I was waiting for the punchline, but there wasn’t one. I was surprised and shocked. On the other hand, they’re so good together, so why not?
CHO: I suppose. I’ve been called a funny person, for a long time. I don’t know that I know anything about comedic acting. I’m not a good improver, which is what a lot of comedic actors are really good at. I have failed miserably when I’ve been asked to improvise. Sometimes just being an immigrant, I read things the wrong way, and that can be funny. Or I’ll put the emphasis on the wrong word, and that can be funny. I have an affinity for comedy because I like to watch them. It’s an honor to make comedies because I love being able to pop something into the DVD player and laugh. I love doing it.
How is it to have Karen Gillan to play off of?
CHO: I try to play the stiff, as much as I can, and play it dry, which is sometimes hard for me. My problem with comedy is to want to clown it up, but she’s the funny one. Those are her jokes, not mine. For me, it’s a lot of not doing anything. I just don’t want to muck it up. But working with Karen, I’ve had a terrific time, thus far. I just think she’s a terrific person, and that’s a really good place to start a working relationship. She’s really great. And she laughs at my jokes, which is good for our working relationship.
Are you good with not breaking when your scene partner does something crazy, or is that challenging for you?
CHO: I’m moderately good at that. Sometimes you just get giggles leprosy and it can’t be helped. I find that there’s a direct correlation between fatigue and breaking. On Star Trek, I think we had a 20-hour day once. We were in our 20th hour of shooting. I think Zach [Quinto] was saying something, and we all, as a group on the bridge, couldn’t stop laughing. It’s the one time I’ve seen J.J. [Abrams] pissed off at us. But, it doesn’t happen with the first shot of the day. It’s much closer to the last shot of the day.
Are you a part of the social media world?
CHO: You know, I did start a Twitter account, but that’s the only thing I do. I feel torn because I don’t want to promo myself and force that down people’s throats, but on the other hand, that’s a component. There’s some real interest in, “Hey, what are you doing next?” So, I try to be personal, but that’s not me, either. What seems to work best, and the tweets I enjoy reading the most, are when comedians just give jokes. It’s a great joke of the day thing, especially revolving around current events. But that’s not my forte either, so I find myself in no man’s land with Twitter. I don’t particularly enjoy giving me out to everyone.
What are you hoping to see happen with Star Trek 3 and with Sulu?
CHO: I like the deep space. I want Sulu to get dirty. His uniform should be very dirty, by the end of this movie. It could be dust from any planet you’d like, but it would be nice, if his uniform looks dirty.
Selfie airs on Tuesday nights on ABC.