Netflix's live action remake of 1998 jazz-infused anime masterpiece Cowboy Bebop has been one of the most anticipated adaptations. The story of a trio of bounty hunters who travel the world in search of treasure and their faithful corgi has been a gateway to anime for Western viewers since its English-language debut in 2001. Andre Nemec, the showrunner, feels ready to take on the challenge of reintroducing the world for Spike Spiegel and his merry gang in a 10-episode series that premieres November 19.
"I believe the biggest challenge was to be able capture the tone of the anime from the start. Nemec explained that they had to dig deep into character work in order to achieve this. This was Nemec's advice to Cecilia D'Anastasio, WIRED staff writer at Wednesday's RE-WIRED event. Nemec claims that by identifying the core essence of these characters, they were able create dramatic moments through both banter and action-packed fighting scenes. He explained that there was "true depth and a real pain to all these characters" and that they could identify with their souls.
John Cho plays the unassuming, but heartbroken Spike. Making the role his own required him to give his character a lot more dimension. He says, "I felt like this man is cool and funny. And to some degree that was built-in. But what I see now it's a lot coping." He said, "That he is dealing with stuff and that it's a way for him to interpret or manage some trauma."
However, this more detailed character development is not just about the protagonist's story. Nemec states that a hero's story can only be countered with an incredible bad guy. He is referring to Vicious, Spike's archnemesis (played in the live action series by Alex Hassell). "It was extremely important that we really get to the bottom of Vicious's story, why Vicious was there, what Vicious is chasing and who Spike Spiegel is to him. Vicious thinks Spike Spiegel is the bad guy.
The world where these rivals fight is as complex and important as the characters who live there. Nemec stated that the anime showed that the future is not dystopian, despite the cataclysmic event that ends the planet and sends us into space. It's actually multicultural and in that multiculturalism, we rebuild our society with the nostalgia of where we came from." Thus, retro tech and ham sandwiches.
Cho has struggled to capture the multicultural aspects of his life and has felt tension about being stereotyped into stereotypical Asian roles. He says, "When I started out, it was not something that I wanted to do." His thinking has changed. He says that he would love to portray a character with the same accent he had as a child, which is a Korean accent, at this stage in his career.