G.I. Cho brings Hollywood home for NC veterans

tgrubb@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2013 

  • If you go

    What: Military Appreciation Day – Augustus Cho and surprise stars from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” will sign autographs. Other special events include the All Veterans Parachute Jump Team, a color guard and military-themed opening ceremony, and members of the ArchAngels Rappel Team.

    When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

    Where: The Streets at Southpoint in Durham.

  • Cho on the Hollywood scene

    “Acting’s not so much when I’m ready as when the camera’s ready. That could be an hour from now, five hours from now, or two in the morning, depending on the scenery.”

    “It takes a certain discipline to be a Hollywood actor at that level. It’s not like shooting a commercial in Winston-Salem, for example, where you show up and you maybe shoot two or three hours and you’re done. This is the profession at the highest level, and the result is what you show on screen. Every name on that credit … is what it takes to make one movie, and we’re part of that team process.”

    “What you see on screen, it’s very glamorous. As soon the camera shuts down, we get our hair fixed, we get our sweat on our brow dried off … everyone looks very perfect all the time, especially the ladies, but beyond that it’s physically demanding because it’s a lot of work. When you see it on the screen, it looks very nice – no one’s sweating, no one’s looking awkward, nothing like that. …

    “The way the public perceives these actors is very different from the way my fellow actors perceive them. We understand what we’re trying to do. There’s respect, but it’s not so much the adoration that the public may have. Fellow actors understand that this is a job, we have a particular role to play in that film, and that’s what we do.”

— He’ll fight for freedom wherever there’s trouble – G.I. Joe is there.

But now the great American hero needs your support to serve thousands of N.C. military veterans and their families.

Actor Augustus Cho of Chapel Hill, who plays a North Korean leader in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” is helping stage a blockbuster premiere Saturday at The Streets at Southpoint.

The event will raise awareness and money for the USO – United Services Organizations – of North Carolina and the U.S. Veterans Corps, a North Carolina-based veterans community service organization.

The USO-NC’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport Center served 651,000 N.C. veterans and their families in 2012, Director Connie Inggs said. Donations and volunteers support five regional centers and various programs: deployment and homecoming support, care packages, a food pantry, reading and tutoring, sports and entertainment.

The USO-NC’s Honors Support Team, founded by volunteers at the RDU Center, also helps bring fallen soldiers home.

Cho, 55, said he wanted to be a part of the USO mission.

“I’m too old to wear the uniform, but I want to help any way I can,” he said.

The red-carpet Military Appreciation Day at Southpoint will include a color guard, patriotic music, and members of the All Veterans Parachute Jump Team and the ArchAngels Rappel Team. At 3 p.m., the first 200 service members and guests will be treated to a private screening.

The event is important “just for service members to be there and to see the community does care,” Inggs said. “We haven’t forgotten about them now that they’re home.”

Hollywood heavyweights

The “G.I. Joe” sequel finds the team fighting not only its mortal enemy Cobra but also threats to its existence and the country from within the U.S. government.

Cho stars alongside Hollywood heavyweights Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum. Director Jon Chu spent $175 million to make the movie, which was pulled shortly before last year’s release to add more scenes with Tatum and convert the film to 3-D.

Cho declined to talk in much detail about his co-stars out of respect for their privacy.

“Bruce Willis had a certain character that he had to play into, and he’s generally a quiet person,” Cho said. “Dwayne’s basically surrounded by his persona … because he comes from a wrestling background where he has to deal with the public in a very direct way.”

The filming – his part took about three weeks – was a lot of fun and a lot of work. A typical day would start around 5 a.m. when the limo arrived to take him to the set for wardrobe and makeup. When the camera and the director were ready, everyone had to be in place. The day sometimes didn’t end until after midnight, he said.

“Everybody can act, but you’ve got to act when the camera is on,” he said. “Can you do it 14 hours later at three in the morning?”

Cho, a native of South Korea, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1982. In 2005, he moved back, serving on town advisory boards and running unsuccessfully for the Town Council, the mayor’s office and for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. David Price in District 4.

He’s now working on his third film, “Redemption of the Commons.”

Cho said he wants his blossoming career to have a positive impact.

“The film industry is capable of benefiting society,” he said. “It’s how we choose to utilize the end product of movies or television programming that makes it positive or negative.”

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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