The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Korean-American Aaron Yoo, surfing roles in Hollywood for over a decade

Actor plays billionaire capitalist in new web series “StartUp,” looks back on career path, home life

By Rumy Doo

Published : Sept. 28, 2016 - 17:29

    • Link copied

Korean-American actor Aaron Yoo has been building a low-key yet eclectic career since starting out in off-Broadway shows in the early 2000s. A University of Pennsylvania theater graduate, Yoo has gone on to play recurring characters on the small screen, as well as supporting roles on the big screen in movies such as “Disturbia” (2007) and “21” (2008).

Yoo has jumped onto the web space in his most recent project. Taking up the role of Machiavellian billionaire venture capitalist Alex Bell in web series “StartUp,” the 37-year-old actor discussed his fascination with the cyberworld, enthusiasm at not being typecast, and his blissful home life in an interview with The Korea Herald last Wednesday.

“You have no idea,” replied Yoo when asked whether he was keen on the new digital economy, the focal point of the gritty world in “StartUp.” The show, created by Ben Ketai and starring Martin Freeman and Adam Brody, follows a gang of four that creates a digital currency startup called GenCoin -- drawing on real-world Bitcoin -- which launches a downward spiral into a “dark, treacherous rabbit hole.”

“I’ve been semi-obsessed with Bitcoin since its inception a few years ago,” said Yoo. Over half of his research material had been about cryptocurrency. “I’m the only actor that handed Ben articles that I’d already read.”

His character’s story arc is one of “success,” Yoo said. “That’s what the GenCoin crew are drawn to. They want Alex’s level of accomplishment and establishment. The thing is, they have no idea what Alex paid to get where he is.”

Yoo has featured in some 23 films -- most recently as programmer Won Joon in “Money Monster,” directed by Jodie Foster -- and taken on diverse roles. In “Disturbia,” he played slacker best friend Ronnie; in “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” he played Thom, a guitarist in an all-gay band. 

Korean-American actor Aaron Yoo stars as the billionaire venture capitalist Alex in online content distributor Crackle’s new original series “StartUp.” (FerenComm) Korean-American actor Aaron Yoo stars as the billionaire venture capitalist Alex in online content distributor Crackle’s new original series “StartUp.” (FerenComm)

But Yoo says he was mostly limited to comedy roles early in his career.

“It seemed like every audition I was sent to was for a stoner. Once I got scripts for three different surfer movies, and besides wondering ‘why the hell are there so many surfer movies,’ I kept asking my agents ‘Do they know I don’t surf?’”

But that hasn’t turned Yoo away from the genre entirely, having just wrapped an “amazingly hilarious movie” called “Why We‘re Killing Gunther,” helmed and penned by Taran Killam.

“It’s about a deliciously ridiculous group of assassins that get together to kill the world’s best assassin, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

All the while, Yoo has been conscious about his impact as a minority actor in Hollywood.

“Every script or audition I’m sent, every Asian-American I see in any movie or show, I question what message it is that we, as a community of actors who represent a much larger community of people in this country, are sending to all the kids out there,” he said.

“Ever since my big break in ‘Disturbia,’ one of my favorite things people have said to me is ‘I never saw a cool Asian person on screen until I saw you in this or that movie,” Yoo remarked. “Those kind of characters are priceless.”

The New Jersey-born actor says he is obsessed with three things in his free time -- “My wife, my dog and soccer.”

“I’ve been fortunate to find and marry the great love of my life,” he said. “When we’re not making each other laugh, I’m playing with my dog. ... And I’m already playing 15 hours of soccer a week, so it’s more than a full-time job. Maybe acting is my hobby.” 

“StartUp” can be viewed at

By Rumy Doo (