Generally speaking, the only time a guy from Jersey gets to share sincere affection for another guy is at that guy’s wedding or during his eulogy. Not to be confused with all of the other times when guys from Jersey share raw, unstructured emotion, such as (ticks off fingers) in a car, at a bar, waiting in line, getting bumped by another person, thinking they got bumped by another person, thinking their friend just got bumped by another person (“that girl push you? that girl push you?”), or when his mother calls
“maaa why you calling me I’m at work!”
“you’re working from home!”
“It’s still work!”
I met Roy Cho, or “Chones” as he’s been perpetually branded in my phone, after Roy Jones Jr, reputedly the best pound for pound fighter in the world, in our first days of Brown University.
I had on one of my tight Banana Republic T-shirts, which signaled an aspirationally upmarket taste while showing off my hot bod, with a silver chain girdling my 18 inch neck. Roy had on a matching outfit, which by today’s standards would probably look like a costume. It was less a “meet cute” than “cute meat” as we immediately bonded about being muscled up wrestlers from Jersey trying to navigate this strange new Ivy League environment filled with boarding school kids, international students and girls who were more amused than charmed by our fish-out-of-water schtick.
Roy shared that he was not only third in the state in wrestling but a decorated Tae Kwon Do champion. I would soon learn that this meant he was good on the ground, good on his feet and lethal in the streetz. It was love at first fight.
We’re a week into school, everyone’s getting their bearings, making friends. Except L — , the cocky quarterback with a 1980’s prep school coif, who singles Roy out for not being properly deferential to him outside Oliver’s, the local college bar. The quarterback has at least 70 pounds on Roy and his entire offensive line semi-circled around him, punching their hands, daring Roy to question the quarterback’s place in the emerging social pecking order. Roy tries diplomacy, warns the quarterback, the quarterback laughs villainously and then — SNAP! — Roy roundhouse kicks the quarterback in the face, knocking him over and subduing him in the street. The crowd erupts and a legend was born.
The episode reveals a passion for justice and cinematic flourish that have become twin hallmarks in Roy’s life.
To know Roy is to know that he lives by an honor code. He has an abiding sense of fairness, which likely helped compel him towards law school. But there’s an artist in Roy, who deep down is that same boy who would engage for hours in “Swish Swish Time”, imaginative backyard play in which he would have on his little Indiana Jones hat, enacting complex battles in the dirt. It’s this Roy who today writes screenplays that work through his perspective on the world in the characters he creates.
In the language of TV tough guys, there’s a saying: I can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. For those blessed to know him, there is no better friend than Roy. To those who transgress his sense of honor, change your locks.
Roy makes everyone feel like his best friend. He is a human air horn when you walk into a room. You feel the bright light of his attention, the warmth of his Hollywood smile, the affection in his “what’s up, buddy!” or even in the observant compliment about an article of clothing. From anyone else this would feel insincere but from Roy feels like genuine appreciation. You’re alive and you’re here, right now.
Similarly, he’s the ultimate hype man, a Michael Buffer of the dinner table, making sure that everyone gets a fulsome introduction filled with the highlights of their personal and professional career buffed up with a 10 percent spit shine. In the way that newspapers keep obits on celebrities on file in the event of a sudden passing, Roy has fully formed paragraphs about everyone he knows locked in a card file in his head. He keeps score but only counts your wins.
He’s not all talk either. The guy shows up. You have an event? Roy’s there. Your kid is turning 5? Roy’s got ’em a nice Tonka truck. Your company having a third anniversary party? That’s Roy, front of the line, early to RSVP.
He’s a machine, even on social media. The guy’s a one-man-clinic on community management. Not a single comment, on any platform, no matter how distant the acquaintance, goes unanswered. It underscores the silent effort Roy invests to be there for people. It also speaks to another code by which Roy lives: respect your past and know that everyone has something to teach you.
Roy’s respect for his community reflects a deep spiritual upbringing. His father’s family was Buddhist and Roy was raised going to church every week. For a time his family thought he may be a pastor. While the family integrated into their suburban surroundings, a Confucianist mindset, celebrating the sacred in the everyday, came to define Roy and his sister’s core values and probably served as a bulwark against crass Jersey materialism.
Since this is Roy’s birthday, I’d be remiss for not stating the obvious: the guy’s handsome. Roy’s got wavy black hair, most often slicked back and firmed into place with product in the classic “hunk” style.
While Roy is more of a writer than actor, the guy fluctuates in weight more often than Christian Bale. There was one time he put on no less than 20 pounds after a week at Sundance and then immediately lost it in some kind of dangerous crash diet like he was rehearsing for The Machinist. Old wrestling habits die hard.
The fact that Roy, never bashful about gym selfies, would willingly gain that kind of weight speaks to his commitment to work. In AMC he has finally found a career that blends his cognitive abilities in contract law, his gifts for retail politics and his love for good storytelling. The ticker tells the tale: since Roy’s been at AMC, the stock price has gone from $55 to $78 per share.
This brings us to Ashley Davis, Doctor Ashley, Roy’s lovely girlfriend, a trained veterinarian who improves the lives of cats, canines and household pets. You can also call her Jane Goodall because in Roy she gets to closely observe a live gorilla. I knew things were trending in the right direction when Roy met Ashley’s father and brother in Saint Petersburg. Three alpha males beating their chests, sniffing out and approving of each other. Ashley sees Roy for who he is and loves him dearly for it. There’s nothing I could want more for him in a partner.
My grandma used to offer what she called “Happiness Wishes”, nightly benedictions filled with her hopes and dreams for me before I’d go to sleep. I’d like to offer my happiness wish for Roy and that’s that with all his relentless ambition, that he recognizes, even for a moment, that he is already first among men; it’s his birthright: Roy, french for “king”. Roy, you creative warrior, may you feel the love of your friends and may it propel you across whatever introspective depths and personal peaks you have yet to explore.