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Cobra Kai

The Featured Presentation

Jacob Bertrand

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With the release of the highly anticipated Season 2 of “Cobra Kai” now upon us, we’re taking an extended look at the fan-favorite series by sitting down with the phenomenal cast of young actors. This time out we’re chatting with Jacob Bertrand, who plays Hawk, to discuss the John Kreese influence, the mohawk affect on the masses, and which episode will have us on the edge of our collective seats.

TrunkSpace: “Cobra Kai” was so well received by fans and critics alike and in a way it seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Was there a different feeling on set heading into Season 2 given that there was more anticipation surrounding it?
Bertrand: Yeah. I mean, there is a ton of pressure. I know the writers definitely feel it. The whole cast feels it. Getting 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, you physically can’t do better than that, you know? We definitely poured a lot into this next season. It’s definitely bigger. We poured 110 percent into it. We did a ton of double-up days and long hours to make it work and I’m so stoked for the fans to see it.

TrunkSpace: What was your first impression of the direction Season 2 was headed in when you started receiving the scripts?
Bertrand: I loved it. At the end of Season 1 they talked to me about getting a different mohawk color, and I was so excited for it. And this season, with the mohawk color change, his demeanor changes a little bit. Kreese (played by Martin Kove) is in the dojo, so he has a big influence right there because he’s there all the time. Kreese is constantly with the Cobra Kai now.

TrunkSpace: Kreese hasn’t exactly been a great influence on people in the past.
Bertrand: (Laughter) Well, no yeah he definitely hasn’t, which we get to see a little bit of how he is with Hawk, so I’m excited to be able to do that.

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting about Hawk’s story arc is that he’s sort of a bit like a soda bottle that has been shaken up. Eventually when that cap comes off, it’s going to get messy. Is that fun to play because he’s the type of character who you can literally see the arc taking shape?
Bertrand: Oh it’s a rush. I am so grateful that this role was even written, and that I was able to audition for it. I had so much fun playing this character. It’s cool to be a little bit of a badass, villainous-type of guy. But Season 2 was definitely fun. Season 2 had a lot of fight scenes. There was a lot of cool Hawk material that was created for Season 2 and I can’t wait for everybody to see it and it’s just a total blast to get to play that character.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’ve done some extended work with characters before in television, but we’re curious what the journey is like for you, as an actor, getting to come back for another season and seeing how someone like Hawk develops out over time?
Bertrand: It was definitely weird going from my regular hair to that hawk cut, but once I got it, it was like, “Oh wow!” All these emotions and feelings started coming back like, “I’m this dude now!” It’s super fun. I honestly really love it. I couldn’t ask for a more fulfilling role. It’s just so much fun to play, and it’s really, really cool to be able to do that – to turn from Eli to Hawk – and I’m so grateful for everything that the writers give me. It’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: Have you had any fan interactions with people who let you know that they got a mohawk after being inspired by your character?
Bertrand: You know what’s funny is that I get tagged in pictures from a lot of kids that give themselves blue mohawks. For Halloween especially, I got a bunch of people sending me pictures of their kids with mohawks and stuff. I think that’s so awesome. I love that. I think that’s great. More power to them, because a mohawk, that’s a commitment. I mean, hey, it looks super badass so you might as well do it.

TrunkSpace: And what’s cool about that is that it shows that the series isn’t just being enjoyed, but that it’s having an impact on a pop culture level as well.
Bertrand: Yeah, I love that. That’s so cool. I’ve been in some Nickelodeon and Disney stuff, but I think it’s cool to see “The Karate Kid” die hard fans. I guess I didn’t really realize… I mean, I had seen the movies as a kid; I saw the first two when I was 8 with my little brother, but I hadn’t realized how religious the following was. I think it’s so cool to now be a part of that Karate Kid universe.

TrunkSpace: We’re all in our early 40s here, so we were kids when the first movie came out and it had a strong impact on us all. When we heard “Cobra Kai” was first being made, we didn’t really get too excited because remakes and continuations have let us down in the past, but this not only appealed to us, but younger generations as well, which is extremely rare.
Bertrand: Yeah, I definitely agree with you. I think that this series is for kids of my generation and kids below who are younger than me. It’s very easy to get into, just because it’s so realistic and natural of the times right now. I think it’s great having a very accurate glimpse of kids in high school. It’s all in how they act and then they just threw the ‘80’s-style Cobra Kai on them. I think that’s so great how natural and rounded everything plays out.

TrunkSpace: As someone who has been on the inside of seeing it all come together, why do you think the series has worked for both original fans and for new audiences?
Bertrand: That’s a great question. That’s one the writers should probably rattle off for you right away. You know, I think that it just has something for everybody. I think that’s what the main thing is. Ralph (Macchio) and Billy (Zabka) create some amazing leads, and then it also has the kids that come in. And it’s also just a badass, funny, dramatic show that hooks you in.

TrunkSpace: For the viewers the most memorable aspect of a film or series is the end product, but for you we’d imagine it goes much further than that. What’s been the most memorable aspect of your “Cobra Kai” journey thus far?
Bertrand: Honestly, something that I was really impressed with was how well everyone did. When we started stunt-wise and fighting-wise – because we do a lot of our own stunts – where we all started in our ability to do stunts and where we ended, there’s a huge difference. I’m honestly really proud of everybody who put in all the work and all the time and effort to make Season 2. So I think it’s the whole thing. There’s not a moment that I love. It was honestly every day that something awesome happened.

TrunkSpace: Finally, without dropping any spoilers on us, what are you most excited for people to see this season?
Bertrand: Just wait for episode 10! That is my favorite episode. Episode 10 is amazing! Just wait, it’s all worth it.

TrunkSpace: So there’s going to be a lot of binging going on?
Bertrand: Yes. When you get to episode 10, call me. (Laughter)

Season 2 of Cobra Kai” is available now on YouTube Premium. Episode 1 is available to free for everyone here.

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The Featured Presentation

Tanner Buchanan

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With the release of the highly anticipated Season 2 of “Cobra Kai” now upon us, we’re taking an extended look at the fan-favorite series by sitting down with the phenomenal cast of young actors. First up we’re chatting with Tanner Buchanan, who plays Robby Keene, to discuss exploring his character’s story arc, why “Cobra Kai” has wowed fans of all generations, and what he’s most excited for people to see heading into the second season.

TrunkSpace: Your character Robby seems to be heading down a different path than we saw in Season 1. Are you excited for people to see where the journey takes him?
Buchanan: Yeah, I’m really excited for people to see Season 2. I keep telling people that it’s a lot more intense than the first season. There’s a lot more fighting going on. And where we left off with Robby in the first season… he’s kind of moved to the path of making a better person of himself. I like to keep saying to other people, Josh (Heald), Jon (Hurwitz) and Hayden (Schlossberg) do a really good job of making every character a human being, so with every character there’s going to be some things that you may not necessarily like that they do, and there’s going to be things that you like that they do.

TrunkSpace: And it’s always fun for a viewer to watch a redemption arc, but we would imagine for an actor it must be a blast, too, because you’re really getting to play both sides of a character?
Buchanan: Absolutely. It’s fun when your character actually has an arc and you’re not, you know, just the “rebellious teen.” (Laughter) You’re not just a rebellious teen for however many seasons and there’s an arc to the character. They live life – they go through hardships and they go through stuff that’s going to be great in their life. There’s an actual arc and it’s very satisfying to go in and actually start somewhere and end somewhere else.

TrunkSpace: The first season was really well received by both fans and critics alike. Was there a different feeling on set for you guys while filming Season 2 given the anticipation surrounding the continuation of the story?
Buchanan: No one expected the first season to be as big as it was. None of us did. We just weren’t expecting the reaction that we got, but extremely grateful with the reaction that we got. I think coming into Season 2, we knew we had to come in and do it bigger and better and that’s the main goal that we came in with. We wanted to make sure that the story was right. We wanted to make sure that the fighting was going to be even better than the first season. So, I would say, knowing that it needed to be bigger and better, there was a little bit of pressure, but we didn’t really come in with that pressure. We came in saying, “Hey, it was well received, let’s go in and do the same thing we did but let’s just make it a little bit bigger and make all the fans happy.”

TrunkSpace: We’re in our early 40s, so the first film in the franchise came out at a time that was very significant to our pop culture upbringing. When it was first announced that “Cobra Kai” was happening, we admittedly didn’t have very high expectations because we had been burnt on remakes or continuations of our favorite projects before. However, “Cobra Kai” somehow managed to not only appeal to our generation, but younger generations as well, which is pretty amazing.
Buchanan: Absolutely. And that, I give credit to Josh, Jon and Hayden because like all the fans, they’re super fans of “The Karate Kid” movies. So I think having writers come in and be super fans and knowing what other fans would want – just like them if someone else was doing it – they knew what other fans would want and what they would want themselves and they came in with a good mindset of how they were going to accomplish it.

TrunkSpace: Not only did we enjoy watching Ralph (Macchio), William (Zabka) and Martin (Kove) reunite, but yourself and your younger castmates have incredible on-screen chemistry that drew us in. When you all assembled for the first time, did you feel like you had something special with the cast as a whole?
Buchanan: I keep saying it but this is probably the best set I’ve ever been on. Everyone gets along. Everyone is extremely nice. There’s no drama on set. Everyone comes in, does their job and it’s such a pleasure to go to work because everyone does get along so well. So, there’s no beef between anybody. There’s no drama between anybody. So, yeah, I think for sure it correlates to on screen because everyone gets along so well. I mean, everyone will go out. We have game nights. We’ll go see movies. We’ll go out to dinner. Even though we’ve spent hours on set with each other. (Laughter) We get along so well that I think it just shows up on the screen and it’s incredible that we have that connection between everybody.

TrunkSpace: Well, hopefully that doesn’t ruin you for future sets. (Laughter)
Buchanan: (Laughter) No, it won’t. You know, sometimes on sets there can be stuff that’s not so good, but that’s okay. You just work through it and you figure it out.

TrunkSpace: While you said the success of Season 1 came as a bit of a surprise, at any point during filming did you think to yourself that the series and the role of Robby could be a career game changer?
Buchanan: No, I think we just came in as if it was like any other job. You go in and do your work and if you’re happy with what you do, then I think you’ve accomplished something amazing. Whether people like it or not or if it’s seen all over the place, as long as you’re happy, honestly, that’s all that matters to me. So, I think that’s all we’re really focused on is making sure that we go in, do our best work and at the end of the day that we’re happy with it.

TrunkSpace: You’re two seasons in. What’s been the highlight for you thus far that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life and career?
Buchanan: Like I said before, I think the fact that everyone gets along so well and that there’s such amazing chemistry between everybody on set and there’s no drama. I think that entire experience of actually wanting to go to work and be excited – and even on our off time hanging out with each other – that’s what is going to stick in my mind. It’s just how amazing the people are on set.

TrunkSpace: Finally Tanner, without giving too much away, what are you most excited about for people to see as they sit down to binge Season 2?
Buchanan: We saw last year where everyone kind of left off. It’s 34 years after that karate tournament, and this year, there’s just more insight into what the world actually is. The world is expanding and this is stuff that people have never, ever seen before. So I think people are going to be really excited to see that world expand and what they’ve been waiting 35 years for.

Season 2 of Cobra Kai” is available now on YouTube Premium. Episode 1 is available to free for everyone here.

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The Featured Presentation

Martin Kove

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Photo By: Bryan David Hall

As bingers of pop culture, we’ve all been burned by the continuation of our favorite film franchises and series. The buzzy term “reimagnation” has become a bit of a dirty word, leaving many viewers skeptical of the projects that have come out of Hollywood in recent years. It’s the reason “The Karate Kid” faithful were leery of “Cobra Kai” when it was originally announced as a YouTube Red series, and it’s why so many who have already soaked up the show have been praising it as a love letter to them, the original fans. It hasn’t just met expectations, it has exceeded them.

Taking place 30 years after the events of the first movie, which made its debut in 1984, the 10-episode Season 1 reunites Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) as their heated rivalry is rekindled upon Johnny reopening the Cobra Kai dojo. And when the original sensei, John Kreese, shows up, as a viewer you realize that this is a show that you never knew you wanted but now you absolutely need to have. (Editor’s Note: Please greenlight Season 2, YouTube!)

We recently sat down with THE Cobra Kai, Martin Kove, to discuss the character’s backstory, why he’s the Darth Vader of the karate world, and the prophetic dream he had just before he slipped back into the sensei’s skin.

TrunkSpace: Is it a bit of a surreal experience sitting down and talking about John Kreese 34 years after you first brought him to life?
Kove: Yeah. It’s a character that we’ve relived often, but not onscreen. It’s quite interesting. The people don’t forget it because the movie means so much to so many people. Back in ’84, they loved to hate John Kreese, so they love to respect him, or they love to love him, you know? The journey of that character is quite interesting because I wondered why the people loved such a beast, and he really wasn’t, per se, a beast. He was just someone who vowed never to lose again, which was a backstory that I personally created – that he was a champion forever. In high school, in college, in the armed forces, and when he went to the Vietnam War he wasn’t allowed to win like so many of our other boys, so many of our other soldiers. So, when he came back he swore when he opened up the dojo that his students would never lose, under any circumstances.

TrunkSpace: Without a backstory like that, he could have been a very one dimensional “bad guy.”
Kove: Yeah. It kind of went in that direction because you always create a backstory when you’re creating a character. A great luxury for doing a character that is basically non-fiction is that it’s a real life person and you can go research, which is my favorite – to go research someone, talk to the relatives and read papers, and there’s different scriptures of what that character’s done. The other end of the spectrum is you create it yourself, on the fictional character front like John Kreese. But John Kreese was a real life character in Robert Kamen’s world. He had a marine sergeant who was a disciplinarian like that. He based it on that. I said, “Was he worse than John Kreese?” Robert said, “He was far worse than John Kreese.” (Laughter) So, I could imagine that, you know?

TrunkSpace: Regardless of how bad Kreese gets in the films, the audience really loves to hate him. In many ways, he was a part of the childhood of so many impressionable viewers who absorbed that first movie in 1984. Like you said, it meant, and continues to mean, so much to people.
Kove: It really does. He’s the Darth Vader of the karate world, you know? It was really tricky. I remember when I got this series called “Hard Time on Planet Earth,” and at that time I remember my agent telling me, “Oh, I can get you out of the series. I can get you out of the series.” And I said, “If it’s going to conflict with ‘Karate Kid III’ then I don’t want to do it.” And he never could get me out of the series, and it was kind of a bittersweet experience. It was a series on CBS after I did “Cagney and Lacey.” It was heartbreaking because most of the people involved – John Avildsen and Jerry Weintraub who, bless their souls, have gone now – but I don’t think they ever believed me that I didn’t know that I could be in that show. So, the assistant director Cliff Coleman suggested, “We could make this work.” Because it was my vehicle and I was to do a sting operation against Ralph (Macchio) and also train Sean Kanan, the other bad boy. Ultimately John didn’t want to risk it, so I came in on the periphery of the movie and sent on vacation by the character Terry Silva. That character was written into the script because I couldn’t do it. I was supposed to, basically, do everything he did. As good a job as Terry did – Thomas Ian Griffin was his name – as good a job as he did as the associate of John Kreese, he still wasn’t John Kreese. You can’t disenfranchise the villain in these kinds of movies, because everybody’s looking for the same guy, because he’s meant so much in the initial outing of 1984. Whether they were bullied, whether they had a romance that didn’t work, or whether they just were fish out of water – that movie meant one of those elements to a lot of people, and certainly John Kreese was right there in the middle of the mix.

TrunkSpace: You made a great comparison to Darth Vader. There have been plenty of movies in the “Star Wars” franchise now, and plenty of villains, but none of them have lived up to Vader.
Kove: No, they haven’t. And I like the movie very much – the last one – but I missed that ominous quality that James Earl Jones put to the voice, and that was put in the costume. You have to remember, to everybody, Sean Connery was the best James Bond. For the same reason, when we’re young we’re so impressionable, and these characters mean so much when they’re written well. Because to me, the bottom line is, with “The Karate Kid,” I don’t care what anybody says, and I used to have this argument with Robert Kamen all the time – the real star is Robert Kamen. He put pen to paper and did “wax on, wax off,” “sweep the leg” and “no mercy.” He did it, and without that, despite the charisma that he always says was the star of the movie, between Ralph and Pat (Morita), the real star for me has always been the written word.

TrunkSpace: You can be a cool character in a not-so-great movie, but that probably doesn’t carry the same weight personally when you’re working with a great script from start to finish?
Kove: Yes, exactly. Exactly. You can do five lines in a hit and… I had two scenes in “Wyatt Earp” and I remember chatting with Jackie Collins one day and she said, “You’re the funniest thing in the movie. He throws a cue ball in your throat and takes your rig and wears it for the rest of the movie. He feels his power after he knocks you out against the bar.” And I had a great time on that movie. I cried when I left the set. I mean, working with Kevin Costner was heaven. But, the bottom line is, two scenes in a good movie is far better than starring in a film that nobody goes to see.

TrunkSpace: Right, because it probably means more to you as a performer when something means so much to so many people.
Kove: Yeah, God knows how many times I’ve made a mistake in my career of being arrogant enough to think that my performance would make the movie better, and the script wasn’t up to par, but I would agree to go do a movie because I loved the character, and my arrogance would say, “Well, you’re doing a good performance, it’ll help the movie.” Bullshit. Doesn’t happen. Doesn’t happen. If it’s not on the page, forget it, and if you’re that arrogant then probably you should go back to class.

TrunkSpace: And then there are those instances where you might have the greatest script with the greatest cast being spearheaded by the greatest director and yet, for whatever reason, the universe just deems it not the time and it never finds an audience.
Kove: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I think that kind of happened with a couple of wonderful movies that I still loved. That happened with “Goin’ South” with Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Arthur Penn. You really figured, “Whoa, you got it, man.” You got the “Bonnie and Clyde” director, you got two big stars, and there’s something missed in that, you know? It’s just strange. It’s all strange. It’s just, when the elements come together, like this series… I didn’t know every episode would be written so well. I knew that Josh (Heald) and Hayden (Schlossberg) and Jon (Hurwitz) were wonderful. We sat around in September saying, “You’re going to come in in episode 10,” and I had to hold and bite my tongue for eight months with people asking me, and I’m telling them I’m dead, I’m telling them I’m the KGB, I’m telling them that I work for the CIA, that I’m in prison. I made up all these stories, you know? Because it was hard. And nobody believed me to be perfectly honest, nobody ever believed it. They said, “How could ‘Cobra Kai’ be a series without John Kreese?” I would say, “I don’t know.” (Laughter)

But these people pulled out the best elements, the very best elements of the movie, and put them in the series, and they wrote the dialog so well. Billy is brilliant, and Ralph is terrific. Billy and I have done a bunch of other movies together, but this by far is his best performance, and he touches all kinds of emotions here. Ralph does the same.

TrunkSpace: Even beyond being so well written, in many ways, it feels like a love letter to the fans.
Kove: Exactly. Very well put. It is a love letter to the fans. For these people this is their “Star Wars.” This is, if it was me and I was writing, would be my “Wild Bunch.”

Photo By: Bryan David Hall

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, you come in at Episode 10, and while you didn’t get to really dive into the series during the first season, your appearance at the end was really cool and serves as both an exclamation point on the first season and a question mark for any second season to come.
Kove: That’s how they always expressed it to me. And I wanted to come in earlier and they said, “No, no, no. We’re going to have you come in at…” I had a bit of a dream about what that scene would be like. I dreamt a couple of weeks before, and I don’t remember telling it to Josh Heald, but it was similar. I was leaning against the window, and because I know what the dojo looks like now, it’s not far from my home – it’s divided into two stores, the dojo that was the Cobra Kai on Lankershim Boulevard in Los Angeles. I’ve driven past it. I had this vision of me leaning against the store front glass window, and then they both walk out and I’ve got a cigar and I’m saying, “Well, you’re doing well my heroes, but which one of you is the real hero?” And that’s what I had a vision of saying. In the scene they constructed I come into the dojo and it’s just Billy, but in essence it’s the same dialog. And I am smoking a cigar when I walk in. So, it’s kind of like God’s watching over me, you know?

TrunkSpace: You’re being fed lines beforehand from high above!
Kove: It’s fascinating!

Season 1 of “Cobra Kai” is available now on YouTube Red.

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