How well do you really know your teenage kid?
That’s the question John Cho has to contend with in the new trailer for thriller Searching, in which he plays a father whose 16-year-old daughter suddenly goes missing.
Told entirely through computer and smartphone screens, Searching, the feature film debut from Aneesh Chaganty and in theaters on Aug. 3, sees Cho play David Kim, a single father whose studious daughter Margot (Michelle La) disappears after a study session. While a police detective (Debra Messing) undertakes the search for Margot, David turns to his daughter’s computer to try to uncover clues about her friends and where she might have gone – and quickly realizes he doesn’t really know the life his daughter was living outside of their home.
While the story offers twists and turns in a fast-paced plot, Cho says the most unexpected factor for him watching the film for the first time with an audience at Sundance in January, was that it centered on a second-generation Asian-American family in a story not dealing with their race.
“It was incredibly emotional for me,” Cho says, speaking to EW from the set of his upcoming horror movie The Grudge.
“Even though I’ve been doing work that has been in that way pushing boundaries, I felt like this was the glimpse of the end game, to see a complete family. It was a new achievement,” he adds.
Cho discusses the challenge of solitary acting and how Searching (out Aug. 3) spins a new vocabulary for a classic film genre below. Watch the new and exclusive trailer for the film above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does this film tap into the conversation many parents have now about how their kids are using computers and smart devices, and what they’re up to?
JOHN CHO: I think a perpetual question for parents is, “What are my children doing?” I think the scary new wrinkle for parents is that we used to think that if we kept them safe, if we kept them out of the woods and told them not to talk to strangers, they would be okay. The problem now with computers is that the woods are now in the house and the stranger has access to your child’s bedroom and furthermore, you don’t know where the woods are because you don’t know how to get there, and you have no idea how the strangers talk to your child, so you don’t know the language of the computer as well as your kid does.
What was the biggest challenge for you in this role, given that you’re often on your own a lot, talking to screens?
I think you hit upon the most difficult part. There were some technical difficulties in sense that it was extreme close-ups the whole movie … but that’s kind of a small problem compared to the big problem of never looking into a human being’s face. I’ve acted on green screen before but I’ve never done a movie where I didn’t talk to people face to face, and that is very frustrating and difficult, because you can always rely on the fact that if it feels good talking to somebody, you don’t have to worry about how it came off typically, the performance is between two people. But acting in a vacuum was very disorientating, I just didn’t have anything to grab onto. I felt more dependent on my director than ever before, I just had to trust that he got it — I was very unsure of my performance the whole movie.
What did telling the story through this non-traditional way of screens do for Searching?
There’s a lot of great twists and turns but what I actually liked about the script when I read it was, in light of how un-traditionally we were going to shoot it, how much of a classic whodunit it was. There’s a version of the movie where I’m going around to her friends with a picture in my wallet of my daughter, but that’s not how things are done today and so it’s been updated and now it’s emails and FaceTime calls and web searches, but structurally, the film feels familiar but it looks unfamiliar.