My Life on TV: 'Difficult People' and 'The Exorcist' Star John Cho

A. Bottinick
Lorenzo Agius

Charmed and Felicity (1998)
Cho started his acting career the usual way: as a bit player. But the results were unusual. “I was doing walk-ons,” he says,“trying to be funny, then leaving.” Cho popped up on The WB’s witch hit Charmed as a ghost with the hots for Holly Marie Combs’s Piper. They couldn’t kiss, though, due to his lack of corporeality. “I still get recognized,” he says. “That show has fans.” On network sibling Felicity, Cho was a kid who thought his roommate was going to kill him. Felicity creator J.J. Abrams later cast Cho as Sulu in his Star Trek films. “I wasn’t used to J.J.’s dedication,” he says. “He’d do 20 takes. I thought I was incompetent. It’s a miracle he hired me again.”

Off Centre (2001–2002)
This series-regular gig on the short-lived WB sitcom was Cho’s first big break. “I was in my 20s and felt like things were on the up,” says Cho, who played a mouthy waiter. “The sitcom life is very cushy. You work three weeks and then the writers need a break to catch up on scripts. So you have a week off and get paid!”

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, John Cho, Bonnie Somerville, Jaime King, Bradley Cooper, Owain Yeoman, John Francis Daley, Nicholas BrendonKitchen Confidential (2005–2006)
The quickly axed Fox cooking comedy also starred a young Bradley Cooper. Cho portrayed Teddy, a fiery fish chef with big, sharp knives and…clogs. “We were always standing,” says Cho. “I began in tennis shoes. My big epiphany was: Sneakers, great for walking. Clogs, not great for walking. Great for standing.”

FLASH FORWARD - JOHN CHO, JOSEPH FIENNESFlashForward (2009–2010)
Federal agent Demetri Noh—Cho’s character on the ABC sci-fi drama about a day everyone in the world blacks out and sees the future—wasn’t supposed to live long: He didn’t see anything! But the writers flipped the script. “I liked the idea of him dying,” says Cho. “The bad part about television is it can be open-ended. Sometimes you just keep going and going and going.”

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Go On (2012–2013)
Costarring as Matthew Perry’s boss on this dark NBC comedy had its perks. “I’ve basically been copying Matthew Perry my whole career,” he says. “On this show, I could do it up close.”

Sleepy Hollow (2013–2014)
Cho knew the cocreators of the supernatural Fox drama, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, who wrote Star Trek, and the pilot’s director, Len Wiseman. “Len wanted to kill me in a really funny way,” he says, “so I said, ‘I’ll play.’” His role as Andy Brooks—an evil deputy who breaks his neck so badly his head turns upside down—was supposed to be only a cameo. But the writers kept bringing Andy back, doing ever more horrible things to him. “I didn’t see any of that coming,” the actor says. “At some point, I felt like they were just having fun messing with me.”

SELFIE - John Cho, Karen GillanSelfie (2014)
With ABC’s My Fair Lady update, Cho became the first Asian man to play the romantic lead in a broadcast sitcom. His Henry Higgs tried to class up his train-wreck colleague (Karen Gillan). “Selfie ending broke my heart. We were doing something different on a network comedy,” he says. “Going through all these shows that have been canceled is a bummer!”

Difficult People- Billy Eichner, John ChoDifficult People (2017)
“I couldn’t believe they pull off making a series in which everyone is so morally horrible and yet still funny and likable,” Cho says. “I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up!” He joined the cast in Season 3 as a jerk marketing exec who romances Billy Eichner’s character, Billy. “They bond over how terrible they are,” Cho says, “and become attracted to each other’s black hearts. Then it turns erotic.”

Difficult People Comedy, Tuesdays, Hulu

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This article also appeared in the Aug. 7–20 issue of TV Guide Magazine

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