When the horror flick Unfriended came out in 2015, it seemed more like a stunt than a legitimate movie. The entire movie took place on a computer screen, with audiences watching from a first-person point of view as a user navigated from Facebook to Spotify and back again, all while chatting on a group Skype call. The movie serves up a modern take on I Know What You Did Last Summer, as a group of friends are picked off by a righteously angry former victim. But against all odds, the movie was actually entertaining and compelling, and it was followed by more “screen movies,” as producer Timur Bekmambetov called them at the time.

But neither Unfriended nor its dour 2018 sequel could have prepared audiences for Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching, which screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Searching isn’t gimmicky, and isn’t a cliché teen horror flick, either. Starring Star Trek’s John Cho as a father trying to track down his missing daughter, the film elevates the core screen-movie concept into a film that’s both authentically nerve-wracking and unexpectedly emotional. But as thrilling as the finished film is, Cho wasn’t necessarily sold on the concept when the project first came to his attention. In conjunction with the film’s home video release, I jumped on the phone with the actor to talk about representation, the challenges of acting opposite a laptop, and how he overcame his initial skepticism.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

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