After the trash fire year that we have come to call 2020, one could hardly be blamed for escaping into the familiar worlds of our fave books and movies. Just ask Cobra Kai star Mary Mouser. “My comfort food is Twilight, and I think I’ve watched it, like, 100 times this year,” the 24-year-old tells us over Zoom with a laugh. “I go back to the first Twilight book all the time, but when it comes to the movies, I know every word, so I’ve got to up the game. I move on to New Moon because it makes me emotional, and then straight to Breaking Dawn – Part 2 where all the magic and personalities come together.”
While Mouser turns to the vampire romance in times of need, the actor also understands that Cobra Kai – a sequel series to The Karate Kid movies following Daniel LaRusso and his high school martial arts enemy Johnny Lawrence (with both Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their original roles) as they train the next generation of karate students – fills that same void for fans of the ‘80s films. “Everybody is looking for emotional comfort,” Mouser says. “We all want to go back to our roots and revisit the things that made us feel good.” This became especially true when, last summer, the first two seasons of Cobra Kai – which originally premiered on YouTube Red in 2018 – debuted on Netflix and spent more than a week in the top spot of the streamer’s Top 10 list.
Now, the action-drama is back for a third season (the first produced for Netflix), which dropped on January 1. Mouser returns as Samantha LaRusso, Dan’s daughter, who is struggling to move on from the world-shattering karate dojo brawl that capped off last season, leaving Sam injured and that saw her ex-boyfriend, Miguel, put in the hospital, possibly paralyzed. We caught up with Mouser to chat about season three and Cobra Kai’s newfound popularity now that it’s available on Netflix.
When Cobra Kai launched on Netflix, it seemed like suddenly everyone was talking about it. Did you notice the sudden frenzy around the show?
Definitely. It was crazy though. I really thought, because I’m in my own personal bubble in L.A., I wouldn’t be able to tell what was happening as people watched the show. But so many have reached out to say they’re discovering it for the first time, which is so cool and exciting. My hope is that, at the very least, it distracted people and gave them something to do.
Have you and the rest of the cast talked about how popular Cobra Kai has become in just a few months?
We’re all in shock. We had hoped that it would find a new audience, and it was very exciting to know that it was just a click away. You didn’t really have to go looking for it. But we didn’t expect anything quite like this. I would get texts from Xolo [Maridueña, who plays Miguel] and Tanner [Buchanan, who plays Robby] that were like, “Dude, can you believe what’s happening right now?” People would message them saying they liked the show, and it’d be somebody with a blue checkmark, so they’d freak out. I’m really, really proud that so many people have shown up.
Why do you think it’s struck such a chord?
There’s definitely the nostalgia factor, which I personally love. People can just connect to this wholesome and pure story that is in The Karate Kid. But now, obviously, we’ve added a little spice to it. There’s more action, it explores all the grey areas of humanity and how we can all be the good guy and the bad guy. It all depends on perspective. Cobra Kai brings back the magic I felt watching the movies. It’s this larger-than-life fantastic world where karate is the most important thing in the valley of Los Angeles, and you can use karate to cure it all. We add a lot of grit and dirt to it, so it’s a lot like real life. I feel like, right now, we’re all wanting to connect with somebody who sees us in the not-so-pretty moments.
It’s been a bit of a break since the second season aired originally? How are you feeling now that fans can finally see the new season?
There are so many cool moments this season and different directions that we take. At the end of season two, our producers were like, “We built this whole world, and now we’ve blown it up.” And that’s exactly what they did. The pieces are everywhere, and, in season three, we are taking all these little pieces of shrapnel and creating individual stories with them, but they all still [connect].
What were you excited to explore with Sam this season?
As weird as it might sound to somebody whose job isn’t to be another person, I was really excited to get into how difficult this year might be for Samantha. We left off at such a critical point in her life. She found her footing in season one, and a sense of belonging in karate in season two, but now that’s been knocked out from under her. I wanted to show that as honestly as possible. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. And on a completely different note, I got to learn the bow staff and dabble with a karate weapon, which was cool.
What is the karate training actually like? You make it look so easy on screen.
Samantha is light-years ahead of Mary. [Laughs] Going into the show, I was like, “Karate, cool. But I don’t exercise so I don’t think this is for me.” But then I saw all the boys working out and thought it looked so fun. They just got to punch and kick things! So I started begging to do it too, and the producers were like, “Just hold on.” I finally got to do some karate at the end of season one, and then the producers were like, “You better be ready for season two.” So I enrolled myself in muaythai classes so I could learn how to, like, punch without breaking my hand. Getting the basic vocabulary down was really important to me. And then they kept adding more and more karate for me each year.
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