John Cho on fatherhood and tackling tough topics in his new book: 'We try to be honest without freaking them out'

Actor John Cho discusses his debut novel, keeping his children out of the public eye and why the kids haven’t yet seen any “Harold & Kumar” movies.

Video Transcript

JOHN CHO: How would I describe my parenting style? Flawless. I make zero mistakes, so we're trying to listen and try and give them space to be who they are. I don't know if I even have a philosophy. I'm just sort of muddling my way through it. But I got to give most of the credit to my wife.


When you get married, I certainly didn't think about I wonder what kind of a mother she would make. Thankfully, that gamble paid off. She's exceptional. And I don't know why I didn't think about what kind of a father I would be, but I didn't spend much time thinking about it growing up. I don't have a whole lot of rules in my mind.

The thing that probably sets me off is the thing that set my father off, if I think about it, don't talk back to your mother. We have kept our children out of the public eye, and that is by design. They're not on my social media. My thought is, they didn't ask for this, so until they are old enough, I'm going to give them the option of being invisible, which is a wonderful place to be.


I thought I might write a mystery, but the pandemic hit, the George Floyd murder, the ensuing protests, the anti-Asian violence, and because my kids weren't going to school and they were with us, everything that was happening I was filtering through the mindset of what must they think? What must my kids think about it? And then I started thinking about the riots as well, because it was a very similar kind of event.

Troublemakers about a 12-year-old Korean-American kid named Jordan Park. His family owns a liquor store in South Central, and it's April 29, 1992, the day that the Rodney King verdict is being read. His father goes to their store to board it up in case of unrest. And Jordan growing increasingly panicky watching the news reports decides with a permission to take his father's gun from his closet and deliver it to him for protection on that first night of the riots.

Having difficult conversations with the kids, we try to be honest without freaking them out, but we do feel that it's important to be plain spoken with them and not to necessarily shield them but also to not overemphasize it. I hope that for other parents who might consider purchasing this book, it's an opportunity to let the kids get into what you might not know is a fun story for them, it's an adventure. And to talk about things that are happening right now but have it be through the lens of something that happened a little while ago, but the themes I think are still unfortunately relevant.