1. How did your family respond when you told them you were interested in pursuing acting as a career? – AnnPantaleon
JC: They weren’t super enthusiastic, but they were understanding. No one ever forbade me. They were just worried that I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent!
2. Do you think it’s harder for the Asian American community to catch their big break in the biz? Why do you think it is or isn’t? – Anunez587
JC: Obviously, it is. You just look around and it’s a numbers game. There are fewer parts for Asians. The concept of “the big break” is something that works against Asians in that the majority of parts available to Asians aren’t meant to break anyone’s career open — they’re modest roles. So even if a person has a long career, there may have never been a “break.” I don’t know if my career has ever really “broken,” or if I’m just descending step by step. The concept of a break implies these floodgates will open and I don’t even think that has happened for me or Kal.
3. Any plans to make another foray into television? – ChrisML
JC: Yes, I would love to go back into television, but it’s hard to choose. I’m a lot more picky about television because you have to sign a 7-year contract, and at this point, that contract would take me into my mid 40’s, and I don’t want to be on a shitty show at that point in my life. I’d love to return to it though. I feel like there are so many great writers who are in TV right now and it’s an incredibly exciting time for television. So, yes.
4. What super hero movie would you like to be in? – AlPavangkanan
JC: Batman. Second, Spider-man.
5. If Harold and Kumar had kids that took on a new form of their adventures, what kind of advice do you think Harold and Kumar would give to the next generation? – MIDesigns
JC : I think that the lesson that Harold & Kumar has taught me and the lesson that they keep learning is to be true to yourself. They’re sometimes the oddballs, they’re underdogs, but the more they are themselves, the better the consequences in the movies. I guess that’s what they would teach their children.
6. In your Hollywood career you have done a good job transcending the Asian stereotype and landing roles that years ago would have never gone to an Asian (Flash Forward), while also securing iconic Asian roles (Sulu) and even tweaking with Asian stereotypes (Harold). What role does race, and the portrayal of Asians in media play in your selection of roles? – Declan
JC: I try to avoid stereotypes. I’ve made it clear early on that I didn’t want to do that, so I think about it less and less because they doesn’t come across my desk very often. However, particularly in the early years, I was pretty diligent about saying “no” to things that 12-year-old me would have been saddened to see–that was sort of my yardstick. I suppose if it still came up, it would still apply. Nowadays, it’s more in a positive way where I try to be passionate about everything I pick. If I’m not excited about something, even if it’s supposed to be a great project, I won’t even put myself out for it. But if something excites me, no matter what people say, even if people are discouraging me from taking it, I will take it.
7. Are there any roles/characters you would love to do, and why? – Miheekimkort
JC: The thing that I’m currently obsessed with thinking a lot about is bringing the story of my parents’ generation to a screen—while either on this side of the ocean or on the other side, growing up in the aftermath of the Korean conflict. I don’t know if I could play it myself, but that’s the story that’s been knocking around in my head.
8. You’ve landed a role that usually does not go to Asians. Have you found it difficult to get considered for ethnicity-blind roles such as the one in Flash Forward? – Nekohime
JC: Yes and no. I’ve been frustrated from time to time and been surprised a lot, though. If you look at my career through my IMDB page, I would guess that 70-80% of what’s on there is not Asian specific. So, I’ve been pleasantly surprised over the course of my career. Part of it has been convincing my own representation and then people in the business that I’m not interested in doing stereotypical roles. So if you start telegraphing that information, I think fewer roles like that come to you. But yeah, I’ve been surprised at the open-mindedness in the industry, as well as being frustrated.
9. How have you survived and navigated around the concrete jungle that is Hollywood? – Tammyt110
JC: I don’t know… I’m sure with some luck. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that there are so many people giving advice in my industry, and it’s the hardest thing to do; to listen to yourself and be your own moral compass and learn to identify and obey your instincts. And the other this is, don’t do anything unless you have a reason to do it. There are a lot of “treading water” jobs. I think you have to be “turned on” in some way by every role. Otherwise, if you’re not artistically passionate about what you’re doing, it won’t translate into business either. So you might as well follow your passion.
10. Do you feel you’ve reached a level of stardom where you can actually influence casting in your projects – like lobbying producers and directors to add more diversity to their casts? – kennarasaki
JC: That’s a hard question. Ken Narasaki sent that right? I think Ken may not necessarily be asking me a question, but encouraging me. So, first off, I should say thanks for the encouragement, Ken. You know, the most important bit of lobbying I could do is by being in the project, and by if I’m in a project, they are probably already thinking of diversity as it relates to their project. If they’ve already cast me and I’m the lead, they’re probably going to be thinking about a non-white love interest, and certainly Asian family members, so that’s a big victory that has a domino effect throughout the project. If it came up, I’m not sure that I would go into the casting office and tell them what to do in terms of color, but depending on the situation, I think I could and might voice my opinion. But for me, it’s not about approaching it in this way. Being on the inside as a collaborator, there’s a way to do that, and there’s also a way where you’re demanding something, so it’s just the way that it’s done. But I have to stress that it’d already be a big move, in terms of diversity, if they were to cast me in a project because of the domino effect.
Thanks to our readers for all the great questions and, of course, to John Cho for answering them! Stay tuned for Kal Penn’s responses, coming soon! A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas opens TODAY! I hope it’s part of your weekend plans!