Although most of the action in Star Trek Into Darkness and its predecessor, 2009’s Star Trek, is dedicated to the exploits of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the franchise’s various villains, writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof can’t help but pepper the sci-fi films with due fan service outside he main duo. Case in point: John Cho’s Sulu. In the first movie, we see him expertly fence his way through some bad guys — a throwback to the original incarnation’s weapon of choice. In Star Trek Into Darkness, Sulu is recruited to briefly captain the U.S.S. Enterprise while Kirk is on a mission. This time, the fan service looked to the future of the series.
In the previous timeline of movies, Sulu (played by George Takei) climbed the ranks from helmsman and tactical officer to Captain of his own ship, the U.S.S. Excelsior. Star Trek Into Darkness clearly hints at that future. “The writers are aware of it and were winking at me [laughs],” Cho tells Hollywood.com. “That would be amazing if that happened in our timeline.” Getting a chance in the Captain’s chair was a dream come true — mostly because everyone wanted to do it. “All the actors wanted to sit in the chair. We broke it on the first movie. That thing toppled. Cracked and toppled. Very embarrassing,” he says.
Cho says that the difference between Sulu in Star Trek Into Darkness and the first movie is ramped up ambition. To evolve the character for the sequel, the actor allowed that eagerness to seep into more of his performance. “I thought it would be appropriate because we were doing a younger take on these characters, and it’s a youthful quality that might be useful. It’s something I thought we should highlight, and something I took into the second one in particular,” Cho says. “He’s ambitious. He gets scared of what he wants, but he wants it.”
From the first movie, Cho never wanted to replicate Takei’s style. Instead, he opted to carry his wisdom with him throughout production on both movies. “Maybe the thing that was most relevant is that he gave me a primer on Roddenberry and his intentions and encouraged me in my choices to bring it back to what Roddenberry would have wanted,” Cho says. “He is a wise man! He’s fascinating. Literally the most intelligent man I’ve ever met. On a basic level, he seems to know something about every subject in the world.”
After Star Trek Into Darkness jumps into theaters, Cho will next be seen in Sleepy Hollow, the latest television endeavor from Trek team Orci and Kurtzman (who also created Fringe). While he’s listed as a special guest for now, the role could potentially grow into something larger — although, like Star Trek‘s many secrets, Cho was quick to keep mum on details. But he did jump at the idea of a potential Sulu TV spin-off if events keep playing out as they did in the original series. When the idea comes up, he responds with the heart of Sulu.
“That would be awesome!” Cho says. “Is that ambitious enough for you?”
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