Franchise Fred isn’t the only one who approves Cobra Kai. It became YouTube’s biggest hit and both ‘80s kids and new fans have loved revisiting Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence today.
We’ve also loved meeting their new students. Jacob Bertrand plays Eli, who becomes Hawk after taking Cobra Kai Karate classes. I was in a roundtable interview with Bertrand at WonderCon last month. Cobra Kai season two premieres at 12:01AM ET the morning of April 24, this Wednesday.
FF: Has it been gratifying that people came to Cobra Kai to see Johnny and Daniel again but they’ve really responded to your generation of the new characters?
Jacob Bertrand: It’s cool. I think the writers have really done a good job about making it all natural, passing this torch a little bit to younger generations because my friends, I put on a little premiere for all my buddies and they all love the show. They’re really looking forward to when it comes out. I think it’s cool because it’s a show that is also about this old rivalry but it’s also about these kids who are being influenced by these two guys and their ideologies. It’s very, very cool to be a part of this younger generation, to be just a part of this world that is The Karate Kid. It’s weird because I grew up watching it as a kid and now I’m in it.
Q: Do people recognize you without the mohawk?
Jacob Bertrand: You know what’s funny is I didn’t think people would, but they do still. Even last year, Xolo and I were in San Diego and we bumped into some guys and were like, “Oh, sorry.” “What the heck? Whoa, you guys are…” So yeah, even without the back tattoo and my mohawk, I guess maybe with my nose. People just recognize the nose or something.
Q: How have things changed from season one to two?
Jacob Bertrand: I did a lot of Disney Channel/Nickelodeon stuff before Cobra Kai so my fan base was a lot younger and sort of 12-year-old girls and younger boys. So that changed and now 40-year-old dudes are like, “Dude, you’re so badass. I loved when you kicked Robbie’s shoulder. That’s so cool.” I like that aspect. My dad’s era, I have a buddy and we were at prom and I’ve never really talked to his dad before. His dad comes up to me and he’s like, “Dude, all the guys at the fire station, we fricking love you, dude. You’re so fricking badass.” I’m like, “Oh, thanks Mr. Pacheko. You’re cool too.” It’s really cool. It just feels like I get to talk to more people in a sense, but season two in general is just bigger. Everything is so much more amped up. There’s a fight in every episode. Hawk gets a red mohawk which comes with a personality change a little bit. Season two, a lot goes down.
Q: Hawk had a big jump in season one. Do you pull it back or go even further?
Jacob Bertrand: Hawk doesn’t stop. There is no stopping Hawk. You can punch him, but he won’t stay down for long. Hawk, I feel, has this mentality, it’s almost like he was trapped in Eli for a long time. The kid never spoke. He was just bullied all the time. Now that he’s Hawk it’s sort of just unleashing everything, all this built up aggression almost. You can punch everybody but sooner or later you might get punched back so I think there’s some tension in that aspect but I think he kind of likes it. There’s a lot more fighting this season, a lot more cool stunts. As for Hawk getting pulled back, I don’t think that ever will really happen.
FF: Is it a poignant theme that someone who was bullied can easily become a bully if they’re not careful?
Jacob Bertrand: Haha, you’re smart. Yeah, I think that theme is definitely alluded to at the end of season one, just how you see Miguel go all out on Robbie’s injury and Hawk sort of loses it and kicks him in the shoulder and dislocates it. I think it’s harder for those kids because they have so much aggression from being bullied. It’s almost like they want payback. Who wouldn’t want vengeance on that? Season one, the bullies are just assholes, just not cool which is funny because Joe and Bo who played the two main bullies, they’re the nicest guys ever. That always happens. The super mean people are always super cool in real life.
Q: Did you do any martial arts training before getting Cobra Kai?
Jacob Bertrand: I did Tae Kwon Do in a strip mall by a Vons for four years. I became a purple belt. I semi know how to use a bo staff. I don’t remember any of it though. I did grappling for a little bit that I used actually a lot because I would wrestle my brother on a daily basis. So we would practice and just try to hurt each other. As it comes to Karate and Tae Kwon Do, not much I remember. We did two months before we went out to Atlanta for season two. We trained with Simon Rhee. He’s legit. He’s from Best of the Best. That was pretty rigorous, and then when we were in Atlanta, we were also training pretty much every day. Mostly just stretching. It was lots and lots of stretching.
Q: Who is the scariest person on set?
Jacob Bertrand: Scariest, Billy or Marty really. They really know what they’re doing. Billy’s a legit Karate master. We were in the tournament for season one and he was just explaining to us like, “Yeah, I can do Karate and it kinda sucks because everybody was out for me. They wanted to beat me up because everybody wants to beat up Johnny Lawrence. So I wasn’t going to let them beat me up. I’d do this one move” and he does a spinning bottom fist and stops his fist right hear. He’s like, “Yeah, you know.” He’s just sosweet about it. It’s like wow, if you got mad, you could really do some damage. But he’s like the nicest guy in the world. Same with Marty. Marty can just snap into that Kreese, the low register and lowers his eyebrows but he’s the coolest guy ever. I love hanging out with him on set. It’s school to watch them too, just during rehearsals. They’re just laying pipe all day. They’ve got long monologues and me and Xolo are just like, “Oh, really sensei?” And they’re like, “Yes, now let me tell you what I’m going to do.” They have all that stuff, so it’s cool to watch the process of how they go through their lines. They honestly help us a lot. Billy all the time is like, “Hey, buddy, shift your stance.” He knows.