John Cho said playing Sulu was ‘nerve-racking’.
Star Trek 2009 is a mostly celebrated but at times divisive film among the fanbase. While many took issue with the lens flares, canonical breaking technology, and the general distancing of the film franchise from its Star Trek-TV roots, the one thing many agree with was the casting. They got every character perfect. Replacing iconic characters isn’t easy for a studio to do, and as hard as it is on the studio to get the perfect casting, it’s even harder on the actors who are asked to fill in for the original actors. Cue John Cho, who stepped in to play Hikaru Sulu for the Star Trek film trilogy.
Cho played sulu perfectly and even captured a bit of the campy flare of the original series when he admitted to James Kirk that his combat training was really just his training as a fencer; a direct callback to the Original Series episode The Naked Time, the fourth episode of season one. The way Cho delivered that line was utter cheese and it was amazing.
Most fans knew about that reference but what fans may not know or remember was that Cho was scared to take on the role at first. Sitting down for an interview in 2009, Cho admitted to feeling uneasy about the role due to its personal significance to him and his feeling for the original Sulu actor, George Takei.
"George meant so much to me as a kid growing up. In the ’80s, there were just very few Asians on television. And George was this beacon… shining from the television. And it was a real honor to step into that legacy — but it was nerve-racking."
John Cho and the rest of the cast nailed their roles
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Despite anyone’s misgivings with the films, even the most staunch critic (if they’re being fair) would admit that Cho and the rest of the cast really nailed their roles in the Star Trek trilogy that came out.
Cho had the seriousness of Sulu, while Chris Pine captured the rascal mentality of James T. Kirk, and Zachary Quinto as Spock was as quietly conflicted as ever. Zoe Saldana added layers to Uhura, making her a linguistic genius, and somehow Karl Urban made Dr. “Bones” McCoy even brasher and more bitter than ever.
They didn’t just stop there, they gave Captain Pike an actual backstory, highlighted Orions as more than just slaves, and even introduced some original characters to help flush out the universe, like with Admiral Richard Barnett, played by Tyler Perry, and of course, Nero, played by Eric Bana.
It may not have had a Star Trek story but it dang well had a Star Trek crew, that’s for sure.