John Cho has smashed several glass ceilings throughout the course of his two-decade career. He was the first Asian-American actor to portray the lead in a rom-com TV series as well as the first Asian-American actor to star in a mainstream Hollywood thriller (Searching) (Selfie). Of course, there are also parts in the Harold and Kumar and American Pie series. The actor will soon broaden that portfolio with the release of the heartwarming dramedy Don’t Make Me Go, which tells the touching tale of a father’s love for his daughter. Prior to the release of the movie, John and his on-screen daughter Mia Isaac spoke about their relationship off-screen and how Hollywood has transformed how people of color are portrayed.
In the movie Don’t Make Me Go, Max (John), who has a terminal illness, decides to accompany his hesitant teenage daughter (Mia) on a cross-country road journey in order to reconnect her with her estranged mother. The movie spends a lot of time in a car with just the two characters, so tremendous chemistry was necessary. Mia explains how they came to form that bond: “At first, both the audition procedure and the practices were conducted virtually. Therefore, the fact that we were able to communicate via Zoom, Skype, and other such services was evidence that there was indeed something exceptional.
The Hannah Marks-directed film tackles weighty subjects while also hinting at humor and even switching between genres. John found it easy to retain the right amount of drama and humor. It’s not the same as the previous car trip I took with Harold & Kumar. He laughs and continues, “But it’s really just about following the script. Go to White Castle. When we needed to be hilarious and when we didn’t need to be was both evident. Sometimes we’d discover humor in a situation that wasn’t really scripted. It’s not something you have to plan out exactly.
While the movie does not discuss race, it does subtly address representation by having an Asian-American guy and a girl who is half Asian and half African American play his daughter. This modification is appreciated by Mia. The fact that I don’t have to explain that I am his daughter is another aspect of this film that I adore. Growing up, it was difficult since I didn’t fully resemble my mother, and people didn’t immediately recognize me as her child. I think it’s fantastic that being John’s daughter is normalized in a manner where it doesn’t need to be explained, she adds.
John makes a broad comparison between the legendary road trip done by his and Kal Penn’s characters in the 2004 stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and the one depicted in this movie. In the movie and its two sequels, John—or at least his character—became well-known. John states, “I’m still in the Harold shadow” while discussing Harold’s role in his life and profession. Even though it’s still dark, I’m content to stay in the darkness. I’m really proud of the movie. Those characters are clearly very beloved by the public, and at the time we were undertaking something wholly novel. It was both futuristic and bawdy. I don’t mind if that appears as the opening line of my obituary.