A lanky, affable presence in features and television from the late 1990s onward, actor John Cho delivered sharp-witted, often manic comedy in popular film franchises "American Pie" (1999) and "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004) before shifting gears to play the determined Mr. Sulu in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" (2009). A former literature student and English teacher, he fell in love with acting in college, and worked his way up from bit player in films and television to featured support as energized young men in "American Pie" and its first two sequels (2001, 2003). Cho became a go-to for laughs in movies and TV, enjoying both top billing and considerable fan praise as one half of the hapless stoner duo in "Harold and Kumar" and its 2008 sequel. In 2009, he once again found himself the center of attention by assuming one of science fiction's most celebrated roles in "Star Trek," which attempted to provide an origin story for the legendary franchise. His ability to shift between broad comedy and high drama made Cho one of the more adaptable and likeable performers in screen entertainment.
The son of a Christian minister, he was born Cho Yo Han in Seoul, South Korea on June 16, 1972. The family moved to the United States in 1978, and settled in Los Angeles, where Cho attended high school before enrolling at the University of California at Berkeley. Though he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature, he developed a passion for acting after appearing in the play, "Warrior Woman." He was particularly inspired by the fact that many of his cast mates still displayed such dedication to their craft, despite being well into their fifth decades. After graduation, he returned to Los Angeles, where he worked as an English teacher at Pacific Hills School in West Hollywood while making his first inroads towards a professional acting career. Appearances in print advertising led to bit parts in features like his screen debut, "Wag the Dog" (1997), and television series like "Felicity" (The WB, 1998-2002) and "Charmed" (The WB, 1998-2006). In the meantime, he began performing with the acclaimed Asian-American theater group, East West Players, in Los Angeles.
Cho's knack for dry comic delivery was soon tapped for more substantial supporting roles in features like "American Beauty" (1999) and the underrated "Bowfinger" (1999). His big-screen breakthrough, however, was as the manic high schooler John in "American Pie," whose hormonal response to Stifler's zaftig mom (Jennifer Coolidge) helped coin the catchphrase "MILF," a somewhat rude acronym for a sexual response generated by attractive older women. His performance was well-received by the film's audience of teen males, and he reprised the role twice in the sequels, "American Pie 2" (2001) and "American Wedding" (2003). "Pie" creators Chris and Paul Weitz reunited Cho with his co-star Eddie Kaye Thomas for the short-lived sitcom "Off Centre" (The WB, 2001-02), about four single men on the make in New York. Cho's performance as an accident-prone, socially unbridled Vietnamese restaurant owner was largely regarded as the show's sole saving grace. After the show's demise, he teamed once again with the Weitz brothers in "Down to Earth" (2001), a limp remake of "Heaven Can Wait" (1978) with Chris Rock. In 2002, Cho shifted gears to play a casually cruel young man who becomes involved with bored students on a crime spree in the dark comedy "Better Luck Tomorrow" (2002). The film, helmed by future "Fast and Furious" (2009) director Justin Lim, featured an all-Asian cast and received critical praise, as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination in 2004. But Cho soon returned to lighter material like "Big Fat Liar" (2002).
Cho's biggest film success after "American Pie" was "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004), a sly send-up of racial stereotypes disguised as a slaphappy boys' comedy. Cho shone as Harold Lee, an overworked Korean banker whose craving for the title restaurant - spurred by a late night marijuana smoke-out with friend Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) - leads to a string of surreal events that include rabid raccoons, berserk extreme sports fans, and a debauched Neil Patrick Harris, played to the hilt by the actor himself. The film was a mild box office success but proved exceptionally popular on DVD, which in turn inspired an even more popular - and crass - sequel, "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" in 2008. The exposure afforded by the "Harold and Kumar" films helped to make Cho a popular fixture in film and television comedies, with occasional forays into dramas. A brief stint on the sitcom "Kitchen Confidential" (Fox, 2005), based on the book by chef Anthony Bourdin, preceded guest shots on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) and "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS, 2005-14) opposite his "Harold and Kumar" co-star, Neil Patrick Harris. Cho also enjoyed a recurring role on "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-10) as the best friend of Christopher Gorham's nebbish accountant, Henry Grubstick.
Cho found himself at the center of considerable Internet and press buzz when he was cast as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the U.S.S. Enterprise in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek." Initially, Abrams was concerned about casting the Korean-born Cho in a role made iconic by Japanese actor George Takei, but the original Sulu appeased his concerns by stating that both he and "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-68) creator George Roddenberry envisioned Sulu as a symbol for all Asian people. In interviews, Cho cited how pleased he was to play a role that afforded an Asian actor the chance to play a sort of cowboy, and how much he enjoyed the physicality of the part, which required him to undergo weeks of fight training. The film showcased Cho in a new light, and led to his regular role on ABC's "FlashForward" (2009-10), a sci-fi drama series in which he played one of a team of FBI investigators studying a brief but international time travel incident.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Made screen debut in "Wag the Dog"
Cast in a small but memorable role in teen comedy "American Pie" as the guy who called Stifler's mom a "MILF"
Landed small role in "American Beauty"
Reprised role for "American Pie 2"
Re-teamed with "American Pie" creators Chris and Paul Weitz for short-lived sitcom "Off Centre" (The WB)
Joined an all-Asian cast for dark comedy "Better Luck Tomorrow," directed by Justin Lim
Once again reprised role for "American Wedding"
Co-starred with Kal Penn in hit stoner comedy "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle"
Cast in short-lived Fox sitcom "Kitchen Confidential"
Landed recurring role on "Ugly Betty" (ABC) as the best friend of Christopher Gorham's Henry
Reprised role of Harold for sequel "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay"
Cast as FBI agent Demetri Noh on ABC sci-fi series "FlashForward"
Cast as Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the U.S.S. Enterprise, in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek"
Reprised role of Harold for third film in series "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas"
Reprised role of "MILF Guy No. 2" along with original cast in "American Reunion"
Appeared in Len Wiseman directed reboot of "Total Recall," starring Colin Farrell
Appeared on NBC sitcom "Go On"
Cast opposite Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in "Identity Thief"
Lent his voice to the English-language dub of legendary animator Isao Takahata's final film, "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya"
Had a recurring role on "Sleepy Hollow"
Reprised role of Hikaru Sulu in "Star Trek: Into Darkness"
Cast as Henry Higgs on the short-lived sitcom "Selfie"
Reprised role of Sulu yet again for "Star Trek: Beyond"
Had a recurring role on comedy series "Difficult People"
Starred on the second season of "The Exorcist"
Appeared in action comedy "The Oath"
Starred in the thriller "Searching"