The great thing about Cobra Kai is it’s not just The Karate Kid 30 years later. It is that, but with a whole bunch of new Karate kids. Hawk is one of those kids. Jacob Bertrand plays Eli, a nerd who signs up for Cobra Kai with his friends and totally changes his image with a Mohawk and tattoos.
However, bullied kids like Hawk can become bullies themselves if they’re not careful. Cobra Kai teaches them to have no mercy. Hawk may go too far in season two, and there’s no Mr. Miyagi to pull him back. Bertrand talked about Hawk’s path while at the 2019 WonderCon.
Do you get recognized by fans without the Mohawk?
Jacob Bertrand: “I didn’t think people would but they do still, you know? Even last year [we] were at Comic Con in San Diego and we like bumped into some guys. Like, ‘Oh, sorry.‘ ‘What the heck?! Whoa, you’re you guys!’ So yeah even without the tattoo and the Mohawk, I guess. (Laughing) Maybe it was my nose. People recognized the nose or something.”
How has day-to-day life been between season one and season two as far as fan interactions?
Jacob Bertrand: “I mean, I did a lot of like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon stuff before Cobra Kai so my fan base was more a lot younger and sort of like it was like 12-year-old girls, you know? Like younger boys and stuff, so that’s sort of changed in the sense that now it’s like 40-year-old dudes are like, ‘Dude, you’re so badass!’ So, I like that aspect, like my dad’s era.
I have a buddy and we were at prom and I’ve never really talked to his dad before. And his dad comes up to me and he’s like, ‘Dude, all the guys at the fire station we freaking love you, dude. You’re so freakin badass.’ I’m like, ‘Thanks Mr. Pacheco. You’re cool, too.’
So, it’s really cool. Plus, I get to talk to more people in a sense. But season 2 just in general it’s bigger, I feel like. Everything is just so much more amped up. There’s a fight in every episode. Hawk gets a red Mohawk which comes with a little bit of a personality change a little bit. Season two a lot goes down.”
Has it been gratifying that everyone who came to Cobra Kai to see Johnny and Daniel again have really responded to your generation’s new characters?
Jacob Bertrand: “It’s cool. I think the writers have really done a good job about making it all natural, so it’s sort of like you know passing this torch a little bit to younger generations. Because I mean my friends…I put on like a little premiere for all my buddies and they all love the show. They’re like really looking forward to when it comes out. I think it’s cool because it’s a show that is about this old rivalry but it’s also about these kids who are kind of like being influenced by these two guys and their ideologies, you know?
It’s very, very cool to be a part of this younger generation and 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 sort of in it. It’s weird.”
Your character especially went through big jumps in season one. Do you go even further in season two or will he be pulled back some?
Jacob Bertrand: “Hawk doesn’t stop. There is no stopping Hawk. You can punch him, but he won’t stay down for long.
No, I mean Hawk I feel like has this mentality of you know it’s almost like he was trapped in Eli for a long time. The kid never spoke. He was just bullied all the time and I think now that he’s Hawk it’s unleashing everything, this built-up aggression almost. I mean, you can punch everybody but sooner or later you might get punched back, you know? 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.”
Is it a poignant theme that someone who was bullied can easily become somewhat of a bully themselves if they’re not careful?
Jacob Bertrand: “You’re smart, dude. Yeah, I think that theme is definitely alluded to at the end of season one, just how you kind of see Miguel go all out on Robby’s injury and Hawk sort of loses it and kicks him in the shoulder and dislocates it. I think that it’s harder for those kids because they have so much aggression from being bullied. They want payback. Who wouldn’t want vengeance on that?
In season one, the boys are assh*les; they’re just not cool. Which is funny because Joe and Beau who played the two main bullies, they’re like the nicest guys ever. But that always happens. Like the super mean people are always like super cool in real life.”
Did you do any martial arts training before getting the show?
Jacob Bertrand: “You know, I did Taekwondo in like a strip mall by a Vons for like four years. I became a purple belt. I like 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 and hurt each other. I did some karate and Taekwondo, not much I remembered.
But we did about two months training before we went out to Atlanta for season two. We trained with Simon Reid. He’s the best of the best. That was pretty rigorous and then when we were in Atlanta, we’re also training pretty much every day, mostly just stretching. Lots and lots of stretching.”
Who do you think is the scariest person on set?
Jacob Bertrand: “Scariest? I mean Bill (Zabka) or Marty (Kove), really. They just really know what they’re doing. Billy’s a legit karate master. That dude, we were in the tournament for season one and he was just explaining to us. Like, ‘Yeah, when I continued karate it kind of sucked because everybody was out for me. They wanted to beat me up because everyone wants to beat up Johnny Lawrence. And I wasn’t going to let them beat me up.’ So, he was like, ‘I do this one move,’ and he does this like spinning (move) and stops his fist like right here. He’s like, ‘Yeah,’ you know? And he’s just like so sweet about it. I was 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, like the lower register, and he kind of just lowers his eyebrows, you know? But he’s like the coolest guy ever. I love hanging out with him on set. It’s cool to have watched them, too, just during rehearsal. They’re just laying pipe all day. They’ve got long monologues and me and Xolo (Maridueña) are like, ‘Oh really, sensei?’ They’re just like, ‘Yes. Now let me tell you what we’re going to do.’ They have all that stuff so it’s cool to watch them, like the process and how they go through their lines. They honestly help us a lot. Billy is all the time like, ‘Hey buddy, shift stance.’ He knows.”
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