Actor John Cho Hosts Speakers Forum At Fresno City College


Photo by: Fabio Saravia

John Cho speaking with students and signing autographs after his speakers forum speech on April 18.

John Cho spoke at Fresno City College in the Old Administration Building auditorium on April 18. He spoke about his career and what it means to be a Korean-American actor in the mainstream.

Cho is an actor and activist known for movies such as “Harold and Kumar,” “Star Trek” and “Searching.” California Poet Laureate and FCC English professor Lee Herrick was the moderator of the event.

Within his career, Cho recognizes that not all of his roles were taken with the best intentions, he said.

“My work suffers, and I am not good when I take the role for the wrong reason,” Cho said. “You have to have something internal that connects you to that character.” 

In 2018 Cho was the first Asian American lead in a Hollywood thriller. Although he is proud of his milestone, he hopes that there will be no need for “firsts” anytime soon.

 “They will have gotten all the firsts out of the way, and I’ll be on second, third or fourth,” Cho said. 

With a rise of Asian American representation in the film industry comes an opportunity for stories to be told that were different from the first generation of Asian American storytelling, Cho said.

“It’s become much more healthy for Asian Americans in any industry, and I’m looking forward to sort of the progression of stories,” Cho said.

In April 2020, Cho wrote an op-ed to the LA Times in response to the rise in Asian American and Pacific Islander hate during the pandemic. He said he was stuck at home like everyone else around the world and had to say something.

“I wish I had a better answer than the following. I wish that I could say that I did it for a greater cause, but it was really self motivated. I just wanted to get it off my chest,” Cho said.

Cho was originally going to just tweet a response, but decided that an op-ed was a better way to go. 

He recognized that it can be hard to discuss race in America, and that it can be difficult for a person to identify as a racist.

“If no one self identifies as a racist, how do you address it?” Cho said. “I think maybe it’s useful to think about racism as a disease like alcoholism, that’s affecting our society, our city, our country, our culture, and we have to get rid of this virus.”

Cho promoted “Troublemaker,” the young-adult novel he wrote,  which follows a boy during the events of the Los Angeles riots. Writing the book during the pandemic and following the death of George Floyd, the story had parallels to what was going on back then and in 2020.

“I was trying to process the current moment through the lens of the past,” Cho said.

Writing the book gave Cho a chance to look back at his career and be proud of what he did and to give people like him a chance to see themselves on the cover.

FCC student and criminology major Jessica Partida, was encouraged by Cho’s story on becoming an actor. 

“It’s inspiring to me because I’m Mexican American and it makes me feel that I can do something like that,” Partida said. 

FCC student and language arts major Bernadette Sellers was identified with Cho’s words.

“I love how he talks about how he moved around a lot even though he became successful even having a childhood like that, I really resonate with that,”  Sellers said.

The line for the John Cho signing after the speaking event on the second floor of FCC’s Old Administration Building. The line extended outside, starting in OAB room 251. Cho stayed to sign books and other memorabilia until 1:40 p.m.