RE: WIRED 2021: John Cho and André Nemec Want to Give Their ‘Cowboy Bebop’ More Soul
Some adaptations of recent memory than too hot (and doubtful) to expect NetflixThe live-action remake of the 1998 jazz-infused anime classic Cowboy Bebop. Since its English-language debut in 2001, the story of a ragtag trio of planet-hopping bounty hunters and their loyal corgi has given Western viewers a kind of gateway drug to the wild, colorful world of anime. Showrunner André Nemec feels the task of re-introducing the world to Spike Spiegel and his happy gang through a 10-episode season that premiered on November 19th.
“I think the real challenge from the beginning was to get the tone of the anime. The manner in which we achieved that was by digging deep into the character work,” Nemec told WIRED staff writer Cecilia D’Anastasio of RE: WIRED event on Wednesday.By finding the core essence of who these people are, according to Nemec, they were able to capture dramatic moments through both hilarious banter and fight scenes full of in action. “There is a real depth and a real pain in all of these characters,” he explained, “and a pain that we identify with the souls of the characters.”
For John Cho, who plays the kind but sad Spike, creating his own role involves giving his character multiple dimensions. “I feel like this guy is cool and funny and collected and to a certain extent built, but what I see now is that it’s a lot of coping,” he said. “That he’s dealing with things, and that it’s a way to interpret or manage some of his trauma.”
This more fleshy character development isn’t just related to the protagonist’s journey, though. “The story of a hero is only confronted by an incredibly bad guy,” said Nemec, referring to Spike’s archnemesis, Vicious (played in Alex Hassell’s live-action series). “It’s very important for us to know who Vicious is, why Vicious is, what Vicious is after, and who Spike Spiegel is for him? And in Vicious, Spike Spiegel is the bad guy.
The world in which these two opponents spar is just as important and multifaceted as the characters that inhabit it. “What’s immediately obvious from the anime is that it’s not a dystopian picture of the future, despite a cataclysmic planet-ending event that sends us into space colonization,” Nemec said. “Actually, it’s multicultural, and with that multiculturalism we’re rebuilding our society with nostalgia for the world we come from.” So, the presence of retro tech and ham sandwiches.
The failure to properly capture this multicultural aspect has become a point of tension throughout Cho, who is often wary of being typecast into stereotypical Asian roles. “To begin with, I didn’t want to create an Asian accent,” he said. “And the reason is because it’s a code for a buffoon or a comic book character that’s funny.” But he changed his mind. “At this point in my career, I like to play someone with an accent I had when I was a kid, which is a Korean accent,” he says, “and to describe that with love and honor.”