Franchise Fred Interview: Martin Kove on Cobra Kai and John Kreese

Martin Kove

Martin Kove at WonderCon

Cobra Kai sure knows how to keep us in suspense. They ended the first season with the return of the series’ most formidable villain, John Kreese (Martin Kove). It was even more unexpected since Kreese was presumed dead earlier in the series.

Now John Kreese is back for season two and he’s free to talk about it. Kove was all over WonderCon in full Cobra Kai regalia, well, except for the gi. Kove had a lot of ideas about Cobra Kai season two and beyond. Season two premieres at 12:01AM ET Wednesday, April 24 on YouTube Premium.

Q: The kids say you’re the scariest person on the show. Are you a teddy bear?

Martin Kove: I cry at supermarket openings. I love the writing and I jumped on this whole gang because they said they were going to evolve the characters. To me, it’s really interesting. I played many, many heavies over the years and my most enjoyable roles, oddly enough, were I love westerns. Even when I played in a western where the character wasn’t all bad, it was most exciting. He was flawed. I remember doing The Gambler with Kenny Rogers. It was the last installment, a four hour deal and I played Black Jack Ketchum. Black Jack Ketchum is a really badass of The Wild Bunch and when he was hung in 1902, his neck tore away from his torso. They misweighted the gallows but he was a lot of fun to play. The same thing goes for when I did Cagney and Lacey or I did my own series, they were kind of fun characters but they were good guys. For me, you do a character who’s venomous and you give ‘em a sense of humor, John Kreese didn’t have that in the movies. John Avildsen would come to me and say, “I don’t want a Marty Kove twinkle. I don’t want a smile. I want death.” He really said that so everything was quite stoic. Everything was rigid. I liked it better when my students won but he didn’t vacillate too much between his expressions. In this game, they’ve written me all over and it’s really fun. They promised they would do that when I said okay, I’ll play. Come in episode 10. Can’t I come in episode six? No, gotta come in episode 10 and you’ve gotta set up season 2. Season three, you’ll be a regular. So I went along and he’ll always be death. That character even in my personality comes up sometimes. John Kreese, he’s there and it’s not that he’s a pleasant person. It comes up in very difficult times. When I feel violated as Martin Kove, that character does come up. Right here, you’ll stare down someone, it’s come up in the most bizarre places. When I want to go to an ice cream shop and they’re closed, I stare at the god damn glass. You know when you want ice cream and you can’t have it. I stare at the glass and the guy inside is cleaning up and he says, “I can’t help you.” It comes up, but what can you do.

Martin Kove

COBRA KAI – SEASON 2 – EPISODE 202

FF: When Kreese sees Daniel again, is Daniel still scared of him?

Martin Kove: He has a scene in season two. He has a scene with his wife. They talk about my character. He says, he has a great line that he wrote. He says, “And now Kreese is there and he’s faked his death twice.” Give you an idea, I can’t really give you too much, but there’s an apprehension there because I don’t think Ralph as Daniel will ever know what Kreese is up to because most of the people don’t because he’s a very unforgettable character in the fact that he’s a very loose cannon. He got into this game because of what happened in Vietnam and has a level of this much forgiveness and we don’t really know what he’s going to do. The more we learn about him in season 3, if we have a season 3, they’ll discuss Vietnam. They’ll talk about his bullying, when he was bullied as a kid. You’ll learn a lot more about this character. Ralph, I believe that Daniel will always be apprehensive and never trust John, never. We’ll get to see it early on in the first couple of episodes. It’s very rewarding and very funny.

Q: Would any kids on the show be a better pupil than Johnny?

COBRA KAI – SEASON 2 – EPISODE 202

Martin Kove: Miguel is a formidable student in his karate. Hawk is a formidable student in his intellect because he looks more into the dark tunnel than the other characters. There’s a darkness about him and I think he would fall into it if I were to cultivate another Johnny Lawrence at this point. The character it, it’s kind of as decent as he is in some parts of this season, he’s just as impossible and conniving. He would take the best of their qualities and use them both to suit his needs. If he needed to be triumphant, because he comes from a place where the students aren’t allowed to lose. And he will realize these characters to the best of his ability, to the best of the dojo’s ability, to the best of the integrity of Cobra Kai because that’s the most important thing to this guy. His interpretation of this thing called Cobra Kai that he created, I can’t tell you how. I had to figure it out, but they thought they had a better reason. I have a better reason. This happened in Vietnam, but the deal is he would utilize them in a no win situation for the competition. Remember the difference between Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai is John Kreese’ instructions are when you beat your opponent, make sure he stays down. Miyagi-Do is if you win the point, it’s the honorable thing to do, go take your position. That’s just how John Kreese was brought up. There’s a charm to it. There’s a viciousness to it. It’s kind of interesting to go back and forth.

Q: Do you see a replay of Karate Kid II happening?

Martin Kove: Yes. The genius of what these writers do as producers is they go back and take footage from the scenes you remembered but different angles that weren’t used in the movies, so they’re outtakes. So they’ll go in and you swear you’ve seen that scene but it’s a different take of the struggling, breaking the trophy, whatever it is. They’ll use that as a flashback. This season they do it a lot more than that season. This season there’s a lot of fighting so they intercut a lot of moments but what you’re seeing is not the movie so it doesn’t feel like we’re using the movie to make the series better. We’re not. They’ve created all this to create Cobra Kai vs. the Karate Kid movies. It’s their own Star Wars, their own version of Karate Kid and what the characters would do if the characters lived on 35 years later. So yes, they do. They go to the archives in Columbia and research which is amazing.

FF: Do you think Kreese ever ran into Miyagi again?

Martin Kove: This season you’ll learn that he didn’t. He would’ve liked to but as he tells Ralph, “My condolences.” He doesn’t have any lost love for Miyagi, but it’s really Miyagi-Do that needs to be snuffed out. There’s only one game in town.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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