‘Cobra Kai’ – Martin Kove Interview on Season 2 and Kreese’s Motivations

When YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai debuted, it showed where Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso are in their lives 30 years later. We know Mr. Miyagi is gone because unfortunately Pat Morita passed away in 2005. But the big mystery was John Kreese. In one episode Johnny said Kreese died, but in the season finale we learned that’s not true. Kreese (played by Martin Kove) returned to set up the show’s second season.

Martin Kove is indeed back for Cobra Kai‘s new season. Kreese wants to be sensei again and thinks Johnny is a little soft. Johnny (William Zabka) hopes Kreese can find redemption like he has by teaching students. And then at some point, Kreese is going to see Daniel again!

Cobra Kai premieres on April 24, 2019 and in support of the new season, Martin Kove sat down for interviews at the 2019 WonderCon in Anaheim.

We’ve asked all the young actors and you’re the scariest person in the show. Tell us why you’re a teddy bear?

Martin Kove: “I cry at supermarket openings. I love the writing and I jumped on this whole game because they said they wanted to evolve the characters. And to me it’s really interesting, you know? I played many, many heavies over the years and my most enjoyable roles oddly enough were I love Westerns. But even when I played in a Western where the character wasn’t all bad, it was most exciting. It was flawed.

I remember doing The Gambler with Kenny Rogers. It was the last installment – it was like a four-hour deal. 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, and the same thing goes for really when I did Cagney and Lacey or when 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, you give him a sense of humor. John Kreese didn’t have that in the movies. I was told never to… John Aildsen 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 kind of rigid. I liked it better when my students won but he didn’t vacillate too much between his expressions. But 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 it come in episode six?’ ‘No, got to come in episode 10. It will set up season two and by season three you will be a regular. So, I went along.

He’ll always be back. That character, even in my personality, comes up sometimes. John Kreese, he’s there and it’s not a pleasant person. He comes up in very difficult times when I feel violated as Martin Kove. I feel violated, that character does come up, usually right here. (Indicating around his eyes). You 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 goddamn glass. (Laughing) You know when you want ice cream and you can’t have it? I stare at the glass and at the guy inside cleaning up. It comes up, but what can you do?”

When Kreese finally sees Daniel LaRusso, is Daniel still scared of him even though he’s an adult?

Martin Kove: “He has a scene in season two, he has a scene with his wife and they talk about my character. He has a great line that they wrote. It says, ‘Now Kreese is there and he’s faked his death twice.’

I can’t really give you too much but there’s an apprehension there because I don’t think Ralph (Macchio) as Daniel will ever know what Kreese is up to. Most of the people don’t because he’s a very unforgettable character in the fact that he’s a very loose cannon and got into this game because what happened in Vietnam and has a level of this much forgiveness. (Indicating very little). We don’t really know what he’s going to do and the more we learn about him in season three, if we have a season three, they’ll discuss Vietnam. They’ll talk about his bullying when he was bullied as a kid and you’ll learn a lot more about this character. But Ralph, I believe that Daniel will always be apprehensive and never trust Kreese. Never.

You’ll get to see it early on in the first couple of episodes. It’s very rewarding and very funny.”

Cobra Kai Season 2

Do you think there any of the kids on the show that would be a better pupil for Kreese than Billy?

Martin Kove: “No. Miguel is a formidable student. Hawk is a formidable student with his intellect because he looks more into the dark tunnel than the other characters. There’s a darkness about him and I think if I were to cultivate another Johnny Lawrence at this point… because the character is as decent as he is in some parts of the 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, he would because he comes from a place where the students aren’t allowed to lose.

He would utilize 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 even figured it out but they thought they had a better reason, but I have a better reason. It 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’s 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 to go take your position behind the line. And 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.”

Do we see a flashback or does the story touch upon how The Karate Kid 2 ended with John Kreese and Pat Morita?

Martin Kove: “Yes. The genius of what these writers do as producers is they go back and take footage from the scenes you remember but different angles that weren’t used in the movies so they’re outtakes. So, they’ll go in and you’ll swear you’ve seen that scene but it’s a different take of the struggling, the breaking the trophy, whatever it is, and they’ll use that as a flashback. And this season they do it a more than last 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 crossed with The Karate Kid movies. It’s their own Star Wars. It’s 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’re not just taking it from the picture. They go into the archives and research it, which is amazing.”

Do you think Kreese ever ran into Miyagi again?

Martin Kove: “In this season you’ll learn that he didn’t. He would have 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.”