For John Cho, “Star Trek Beyond” isn’t just another “Star Trek” movie. A few weeks ago it was made public that his character, Hikaru Sulu, third officer and helmsman of the Starship Enterprise, would be revealed to be gay, with a husband and an adopted daughter back home. In the film the revelation is a tiny moment, but while it’s made many happy, it’s enraged others, including the original Sulu himself, George Takei. For Cho, he sees it as a case in which a group that’s underrepresented in TV and film can finally see themselves onscreen.
At three films in, have you become a Trekkie?
Not really. I like the series, but I’m not built to be a deep fan of anything. That’s just not me. I can’t retain a lot of details. I certainly admire it, though, and I’m a fan.
Given that, how do you interact with the deeply passionate fans? There’s that classic “Saturday Night Live” sketch where William Shatner berates Trekkies at a conference, which I’m sure isn’t entirely accurate.
There’s a level of truth to that. But it’s also much more diverse and much deeper than I would have imagined. Sometimes you shake hands with people and they ask you for the combination to Kirk’s locker. But it’s deep, it’s multi-generational. I’ve met a lot of very different people over the years. I’ve discovered there’s a gay “Star Trek” fanbase. It’s very diverse.
The original series was a reflection of the social and political divide in the late 1960s. What do you think this says about today, when we’re in a similar situation?
“Star Trek” has endured 50 years, and perhaps one reason it has is it appeals to our better nature as a species. That’s an irresistible message, particularly right now. It was relevant in the late 1960s; we were coming off a very tumultuous period of American history. And we’re in the middle of one right now. It’s useful to be reminded of our similarities as opposed to our differences.