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‘Cowboy Bebop’ Interview: John Cho, Daniella Pineda, & Mustafa Shakir on Bringing Spike, Faye, & Jet to Life

'Cowboy Bebop' arrives on Netflix this November 19!

That iconic blue suit, the messy yet stylish haircut, and a stick of cigarette between his lips. Spike Spiegel is an anime icon from the ’90s, and in a few days, we’ll see the space cowboy revived in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop.

Spike, alongside his companions Jet Black, and Faye Valentine are heading to the streaming giant this November 19, with actors John Cho (Searching), Mustafa Shakir (Marvel’s Luke Cage), and Daniella Pineda (The Originals) playing the Bebop crew members. Of course, the cute corgi Ein will also be there!

Cowboy Bebop revolves around a group of fearless bounty hunters aboard the Bebop ship who are determined to catch the solar system’s most notorious criminals for the right price. But as they try to chase and capture the bad guys, the three ‘cowboys’ are also trying their best to outrun their past.

In a recent virtual interview with the show’s three main stars, members of the Asia Pacific press were able to ask the cast questions about the show, their casting, and more! Read more about our interview below:

For John Cho, how did it feel suiting up as Spike for the first time, and how long does it typically take you to get dressed up for a scene?

John Cho: It takes me four and a half hours to get dressed, that’s because I’m very slow.

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Daniella Pineda: Well that’s three hours for the hair.

John Cho: [Laughs] It felt awesome. The suit is obviously iconic. We added a lot of flourishes and easter eggs just in the suit itself. Just to know that that kind of care was taken over your wardrobe, it feels very authentic and very individual. And it’s imbued with meaning, it isn’t just a suit, you know.

So to put it on, and then look in the mirror and say “Oh, I see. I’m playing Spike Spiegel,” [chuckles] in case I wasn’t aware. It’s a great way to kind of walk onto a set, knowing that you’ve done everything that you can to look the part. It’s not a bad way to begin.

Photo: Netflix

What are the joys and challenges in bringing Cowboy Bebop to life?

Cho: The biggest challenge, I’m gonna guess for the three of us, is just going to boot camp and learning all the skills required to pull off these fight scenes. The joys for me is just walking onto sets that were so fully imagined and to see something come to life, is really magical. To be able to play in a world that’s so fun and rich and interesting, there were lots of like, pinch yourself moments throughout the course of the season for me.

Pineda: Yeah, I think that there were mostly mostly joys. This was the most challenging shoot, challenging project that I’ve ever been a part of, primarily due to the training. The boot camp was really really intense, it was really rewarding. I’m so happy I experienced it. But mostly, I’d say there were a lot of joys. It was a fun show, so it’s fun to be a character on that show, and I hope that people will really, kind of lose themselves and get a kick out of all the hard work that we did.

But the biggest joy came from wrapping the show, because it seemed like there were so many things in the world that were trying to stop us from finishing it, like COVID and all of these things, and it’s like, “We did it!” It is the most rewarding experience I think I’ve had working on anything.

Photo: Netflix

How much training did you take to look the part? And what is your take on Hollywood’s expectations for leading men to look a certain way?

Cho: I had to lose 110 pounds to play Spike. Certainly, that was a concern going in. I want to be believable and it wasn’t like a superhero part, so I felt that I had to have a functional-looking physique. [Spike is] lean, he wasn’t beefed up but yeah, certainly the Hollywood expectations for the male physique have really changed. People like Paul Newman would be considered wimpy looking in today’s terms. So it certainly changed. I don’t know what to say about it except it must be sort of, the comic book expectations of men in our culture now because it’s so popular, but I don’t know, I’m just trying to do my kicks as Spike.

Photo: ‘Cowboy Bebop’ trailer

If you were out bounty hunting, which character would you bring and why?

Pineda: I would bring Jet Black. Jet Black is no-nonsense. He’s gonna get the job done. He doesn’t want to deal with any of the BS, he’s reliable, he has dad energy. I would feel most safe with Jet Black.

Cho: I’m Spike, who am I gonna bring? I think it would be Jet. Faye’s really– I feel we could get the job done but she would steal the money, so what’s the point. I need to go with someone who is trustworthy, who’s not gonna steal the freakin’ loot so I’m gonna go with Jet.

Shakir: I would also go with Jet.

Cho: Wait a second…

Pineda: [Laughs] We definitely would all rely on Jet for sure.

Photo: Netflix

Were you able to add your own spin to the characters in this series?

Pineda: I’ve got a lot of creative say in my outfit. We tried with the original, but in the original outfit which is so lovely, it’s hard to hide stunt pads, gel pads, and back plates, and things [you’ll need] when you’re falling, and kicking, and doing stunts. So Jane Holland, our fantastic designer and head of wardrobe, we worked a lot together just to figure out, “Okay how does this Faye Valentine function in the real world with a real human being?” So I’ve got a lot of say in that.

Photo: Netflix

Shakir: I’d have to agree. No one had really told me what to do. To be honest, it was just like “we hired you because we know you are capable of bringing this guy to life.” And I was pretty much given free rein so I felt very much a part of the process of bringing him to life.

Cho: I felt like, the template was there obviously and there were benchmarks that we were hitting, and there was iconography that we were exploring. In terms of the backstory though, I felt like as actors we just had to make all that real and three-dimensional for ourselves. We went further in that zone than the anime, I felt, and in dramatizing all that pain and the loss and the trauma. And so that was where I felt like we brought our own skills there.

Photo: Netflix


Don’t forget to catch Spike and the crew when Cowboy Bebop starts streaming on Netflix this November 19.

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