One Cobra Kai star has revealed why Karate Kid has resonated with fans for so long. Martin Kove played John Kreese and now is a villainous sensei on the streaming series. He talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how Cobra Kai really reinvigorated his career. With the series moving to Netflix this week, the Karate Kid spinoff is back in the public eye in a huge way. Kove and his co-star Ralph Macchio seem to be overjoyed that a lot of fans are catching up with the series and reconnecting with the older movies as a result. Older fans might remember the actors turns in Rambo: First Blood Part II and Cagney & Lacey. But, when you drill right down to the bedrock, The Karate Kid really comes to mind for his most iconic role.
“The [original movie] was a religious experience to so many. Ralph Macchio, Billy and I, we've gotten to do all the [fan shows and conventions] and stay together 30 years before this new series came along,” he observed. “And what we saw [at the shows and conventions], one of three things that happened in the movie resonated with people, things that helped make it a religious experience. Number one, in 1984, [the main characters] were really bullied.”
“Number two, there's a relationship with a woman, or romance that did not work out. And number three, there's the fish out of water theme, somebody who is moved around a lot and never has any roots,” Kove added. “So I found out, through autograph shows and talking to people, that everybody felt, in some way, the Karate Kid experience. That was depicted so well in the movie, that 30 years later, the show does well too. It brings those themes back, even though we're always introducing new elements like these teenagers.”
But, when the role was offered to the actor, he wanted to make sure that there was some more depth showcased on this go-around.
“I wanted to come back to the role. I was quite leery to do it as written for the movies, but my basic insistence to the [Cobra Kai] writers was, "Are you going to write this character vulnerably? Are you going to give him some versatile situations?" And they did, they had him coming off episode-one, season-two as if he was a big shot,” Kove explained. “He portrayed that everything's cool, and he's coming back, and he wants to be in Cobra Kai, because it's now big news. He lives in a shelter because he has no money. Then [Zabka's character] follows him one day, and they have a great scene in the shelter where I'm in tears, and Billy's in tears. He takes me back into Cobra Kai. This is after episode-one, where we had a big fight, and I threw him through glass.”
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