As someone who has been a Karate Kid fan since she was a child, Cobra Kai has been the perfect way to reconnect with my youth. If you had told 10-year-old me that I’d be interviewing the men behind two of the franchise’s most iconic characters, I don’t know if I would have believed it.
Ahead of the Cobra Kai Season 5 premiere, I got to chat briefly with Yuji Okumoto (Chozen) and Thomas Ian Griffith (Terry Silver) about reprising their roles. Below is what they shared with me during our conversation.
Did either of you ever wonder where your characters ended up after their initial stories were told in the Karate Kid films? And did you ever think you’d revisit this world again?
Thomas: It never even entered my mind that I would be playing Terry Silver again in my life. Those questions of what would he be doing, what makes him tick, and what has he been up to for the last 30 years, that was the draw for me to come back to acting and join the show. The creators have done an amazing job of mapping out this character and giving him an incredible backstory and understanding. It was so rich and full to take this one-dimensional, archetypal character, and make him really scary and appealing at the same time. He’s a character that you just can’t take your eyes off because you want to see what he does next. That’s hard to do, and the writers did it. I’m blessed to be a part of it.
Yuji: Who would have thought 30 years later that they would resurrect Chozen? For my process, I always try and do a backstory for every project that I work on. I create this whole storyline. So when they approached me about bringing me back to this same world as Chozen, I had to create this whole world and backstory of where he was, who he became and where he’s going. We had discussions prior to me coming back in Season 3. The three creators and I had this call, and those guys are so passionate. It’s incredible to listen to their pitch, and wonderful to be a part of this because I knew that these guys are going to bring it. They knew where Chozen is going, and they did a wonderful job not only with my character but with the show as a whole.
One of the most exciting aspects of Season 5 is the dynamic between both of your characters, both in the karate and the battle of wits. Can you share a bit about establishing that rapport so that your scenes together really popped?
Thomas: It was anticipatory to bring these two badasses from different worlds and different styles together. But like Yuji always says, we had such respect for each other because both of these men have committed their lives to their art. And how does that play out? How do we top what we’ve seen? If these two are at the top of their games individually, how does that manifest itself when we go to shoot it? That took some thought, and what we came up with was crazy and dangerous and fun. It lived up to that expectation, at least for me it did.
Yuji: When you have a great foundation, the scenes were written so well. The topper was you get to work opposite an actor who is seasoned and experienced and knows all these levels. It’s a true give and take. That’s what I really loved about this particular season. I always take away the fact that we had this wonderful chemistry. Thomas and I had never worked together before, and it was such a joy for me. When you work with an actor that brings it, then you have to match that. There was a tremendous amount of chemistry there, and I’m thankful that we got a chance to actually work together.
Thomas: Yeah, me too.
Images Courtesy of Netflix