RE: WIRED 2021: John Cho and Andre Nemec wanted to give more of the ‘Cowboy Bebop’ spirit

Few modifications in Recent memory has been highly predictable (and skeptical) like NetflixLive action reproduction of the classic 1998 jazz-infused animated film Cowboy Bebop. Since it first appeared in English in 2001, the story of a trilogy of bounty-jumping bounty hunters and loyal corgis has offered Western audiences a kind of psychedelic entrance into the wild and colorful world of anime. Showrunner André Nemec feels up to the task of reintroducing the world to Spike Spiegel and his hilarious gang through a 10-episode season that premieres November 19.

“I think the real challenge right from the start was being able to capture the tone of the anime. The way we did that was by going deeper into the characters’ work,” Nemec told WIRED writer Cecilia D’Anastasio at a RE:WIRED event on Wednesday. By finding the core of who these people are, Nemec says, they were able to elicit dramatic moments through both hilarious banter and action-packed fight scenes. “There was real depth and real pain to all of these characters, and pain we could identify with the souls of the characters,” he explained.

For John Cho, who plays the cute but sad Spike, making the role his own involves giving his character a lot of dimension. “I felt like this guy was cool, funny and kinda put together, but what I see now is that it takes a lot of coping,” he says. “He’s dealing with things, and it’s a way of interpreting or managing some of his trauma.”

However, developing the most embodied character isn’t just about the hero’s journey. “The hero’s story can only be resisted by a stunning villain,” says Nemec, referring to Spike’s archenemy, Vicious (played by Alex Hassell). “It was very, very important for us to really get to know who Vicious was, why he was Vicious, what’s hunting down Vicious, and who Spike Spiegel is to him? And to Vicious, Spike Spiegel is the bad guy.”

The world in which these two rivals compete is just as important and multifaceted as the characters that inhabit it. “What immediately emerges from the anime is that it is not a dystopian picture of the future, despite a catastrophic event that ends the planet and sends us into space colonization,” Nemec said. “Indeed, it is multicultural, and in this multiculturalism we rebuild our society in the nostalgia of the world we came from.” Hence, the presence of Retro Tech and Ham sandwiches.

The failure to accurately capture this multicultural aspect was a tension point throughout Chu, who was often wary of being cast into stereotypical Asian roles. “When I started, I didn’t want to speak with an Asian accent,” he says. “The reason is because he was a symbol of a clown or a comic character to laugh at.” But his thinking has changed. He says, “At this point in my career, I would like to play someone with the accent I had as a kid, which was a Korean accent, and portray that with love and honor.”

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