It's been a little more than a month since writer and executive producer Jeff Pinkner (Fringe, Lost) revealed that Netflix's live-action Cowboy Bebop series was already working up scripts for a second season. Since that time, good news momentum continues to build with executive producer Marty Adelstein and writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach. First up, Adelstein spoke with SYFY Wire on where production stood prior to the coronavirus-related production shutdown (which also gave lead John Cho more time to rehab his knee injury). The good news right up front? They already have some episodes in the can, and Adelstein likes what he's seeing:
"So, we have finished three episodes. I think we're into [shooting] six; then John Cho tore his ACL, unfortunately. But I have to tell you I really like the show. It's really fun. And we have gone out of our way, because of all these anime movies that have come out and been accused of being whitewashed, we have really gone out of our way. The characters are all sort of multiethnic, and it's a great cast. And the two episodes I have seen are so much fun. It's really fun."
While the injury was definitely a setback for both the actor and production on the series, Grillo-Marxuach wants to make it clear that replacing Cho was never an option. How do you replace the person who was meant to be Spike Spiegel? "You've seen him in comedies. You've seen him in dramas. The guy can do anything," Grillo-Marxuach explained during an interview with io9. "To see John Cho bring his wonderful mastery of acting to this character, and then also to see the level of physical preparation that he's done for this, is stunning."
Grillo-Marxuach and co-writer Chris Yost had very specific ideas on who Spike is as a character, with Cho a natural match for those qualities: "Chris Yost and I wrote this on a notecard and tacked it up to our whiteboard in the room. His motto for Spike Spiegel was always: Spike Spiegel is super fucking cool. Is he tortured? Yes. Does he have a lot of tragedy in his backstory? Yes. Is he somebody who's not the most sort of effusive with his emotions kind of guy? Yes, you know this. But he's super fucking cool. So, I think more than anything else, Spiegel's super fucking cool. John brings that to it in spades."
As Grillo-Marxuach sees it, casting Cho isn't just a positive for the actor and the series but also for those groups in society who don't see themselves represented on the big screen in these types of lead-roles. A prime example of that came in 2016 when the hashtag campaign #StarringJohnCho was started to show how the actor would look leading a number of blockbusters. As entertaining as it was, the point of it was definitely not lost on the writer: "I think that everybody who participated in that meme of putting John Cho's face on James Bond, or the character from Fast and the Furious and all that, and asking: 'Why isn't this guy doing this?' Finally, we've brought this to you. It's kind of great to be part of a show where you're finally going to give the audience something that—not just a Cowboy Bebop audience, but a segment of the audience that hasn't been represented this way—not just this guy, but this character."
While there's still no word yet on when production will resume, Grillo-Marxuach wants fans of both Cho and Cowboy Bebop to know that they're getting the best of both when the series debuts: "You know, John Cho is not exactly an unattractive dude, but he's never looked better. We have maximum, maximum John Cho here."
Based on the 1998-1999 anime of the same name created by Shinchiro Watanabe, the series follows Spike (former criminal with a smooth 'do and charming personality who specializes in Jeet Kune Do), Jet (former police officer), Faye (amnesiac with a sordid past who was revived after a long slumber), Ed (sly child prodigy computer hacker), and Ein (intelligent Welsh Corgi classified as a data dog). Together, the ragtag crew of bounty hunters is running from their respective pasts as they hunt down the solar system's most dangerous criminals. They might even end up saving a planet or two if the price is right.
The live-action adaptation also stars Elena Satine, Mustafa Shakir, Daniella Pineda, and Alex Hassell. Pilot writer Yost will also serve as executive producer, alongside Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, Scott Rosenberg, Marty Adelstein, and Becky Clements in the United States. Yasuo Miyakawa, Masayuki Ozaki, Tetsu Fujimura, and Matthew Weinberg will serve as executive producers in Japan, with Watanabe serving as a consultant. Netflix and Tomorrow Studios are co-producing the project, with series composer Yoko Kanno returning to compose the live-action series.