One of the best parts of Cobra Kai season four is the introduction and journey of a new character named Kenny. Kenny is played by actor Dallas Dupree Young, who previously appeared in films like Ready Player One and shows like The Fosters. Here though, he becomes arguably the most important character in the entire season.
Kenny is such an important character, in fact, that his introductory episode, “First Learn Stand,” is a near beat-by-beat retelling of the original Karate Kid with Kenny in the Daniel role. So suffice to say, he becomes a majorly important character to the show! When the chance came to ask the young actor a few questions over email, we had to oblige—although be warned, for those who’ve not finished the season just yet, later on we delve into some spoilery territory.
Germain Lussier, io9: How did you first hear about this role?
Dallas Dupree Young: I first heard about the role of Kenny through an audition that I received from my managers. I had never watched the show or realized the level of popularity this series had gained since moving to Netflix. However, I thought this would be a great chance to be a part of a project that could help me grow as an actor. At the time, though, I was a part of another TV series and thought dates might conflict with Cobra Kai. Thing worked out and I’m very glad my team and I took an important risk that ultimately changed my life.
io9: Were you a fan of Cobra Kai and or The Karate Kid in general before you got the job? If so, how did you find it, and if not, what did you think once you watched the show and or the movies?
Young: At a very young age I had a love for the Karate Kid franchise. Before I was even interested in acting, I was a karate student working on improving my crane kick. I found the movie because my parents and my sensei encouraged me to analyze the techniques of all the students in the movie. When I found out I was a finalist for the role of Kenny, I immediately binge watched the whole show! I ended up falling in love with the series and the show instantly became my favorite.
io9: What were your conversations with Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald like once you got the role—was everything already in place for Kenny, or did you have input?
Young: My conversations with Jon, Josh, and Hayden were always exciting. During our first meeting together, the guys explained their creative vision for the character and how they wanted him to keep growing and elevating as a student and impactful character throughout the season. I was immediately invested in Kenny at that point. And to answer your other question–honestly both. The trajectory of the character’s story arc was already set in motion, but the creators gave me the freedom to make the character my own at any time. It made playing Kenny that much more thrilling.
io9: Your first episode, episode two, is basically just a retelling of The Karate Kid, except you’re Daniel LaRusso. How clear was it made to you going in that Kenny would be introduced like this, and what was it like filming such a direct homage?
Young: The retelling of The Karate Kid in episode two was made clear to me at the beginning of filming for the episode. In the script, the action lines actually stated that Kenny’s lifestyle has many similarities with Daniel’s lifestyle. Filming such a direct homage was really exciting because it was an honor to know that the filmmakers had so much trust in my ability to fill such huge shoes.
io9: You feel so bad for Kenny early in the season, as he’s being cyber bullied. What did you draw on to make him sympathetic?
Young: To make the audience feel sympathy for my character, I leaned towards the more self-conscious and timid aspect of Kenny at the beginning. I wanted to build a foundation for a strong arc throughout the season. I also drew on the incredible performances from Jacob Bertrand and Xolo Maridueña in season one, because their characters went through the same hurtful situation as Kenny.
io9: Your main rival all season is Anthony LaRusso, played by Griffin Santopietro. What was your off screen relationship like with Griffin? Were you friends? What was it like fighting with him?
Young: Griffin and I became really good friends during our time together on set. Thankfully, we stayed at the same hotel, so we had the opportunity to hang out often, play video games, and even practice our scenes together. We had such a fun time while fighting each other as well, especially during our final fight in episode 10. We always strived to come up with creative ways to make the scene more interesting and more meaningful.
io9: Over the course of season four, Kenny proves himself and becomes a member of Cobra Kai. What did you think of this decision? Would you have made the same decisions?
Young: I thought the decision to make Kenny join Cobra Kai was an excellent choice by the filmmakers. The way they connected Shawn and Kenny’s storylines together was the perfect set up for the beginning of Robby and Kenny’s relationship. For me personally, I would’ve made the same decisions because this gives my character a reason for joining a dojo in the first place.
io9: What was your time on set like with Tanner Buchanan? Did you develop a similar mentor/mentee relationship like the one you share on the show?
Young: Oh yes! Working with Tanner has helped me grow as a person, an actor, and a martial artist. We did have a mentor/mentee relationship from the very beginning. I remember on my first unofficial day on set for training, Tanner was the first person to greet me at the stages. He took the time out of his busy schedule to welcome me into the Cobra Kai family and show me the ropes. Joining a tight-knit cast like the Cobra Kai cast can be a little scary, so I’ll never forget this kind gesture from Tanner because he made me feel more comfortable each and every day on set.
io9: Karate Kid fans are terrified of John Kresse and Terry Silver, so what was it like working with the actual actors, Martin [Kove] and Thomas [Ian Griffith]? Are they as intimidating in real life?
Young: Before I introduced myself, I was really intimidated by Martin and Thomas, but working with them actually gave me a new perspective on life in general and karate. Actors are really not as scary as people might think! Once you get to know them, you realize that they are the nicest, knowledgeable, and most humorous people on set. The sensei’s can have a few similarities, but neither one of them are as maniacal nor as cynical as their characters.
io9: You don’t get to work a lot of Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, but considering they’re also producers, what are they like on set?
Young: Yes, although I didn’t get to work with Ralph and William often, their personalities always shined bright on set. They welcomed me with open arms, and I have had meaningful conversations with both of them. It’s really awesome to see how passionate they are about the show.
io9: Kenny does extremely well in the All Valley tournament. Were you surprised at that development for him? What was it like shooting those tournament scenes?
Young: I was definitely impressed and surprised at how well he was doing in the All-Valley because Kenny had only started branching out of his shell pretty recently. Filming those scenes was very nerve wracking and exhilarating at the same time. I wanted to ensure that I memorized all of the choreography and my lines, so I put a lot of pressure on myself. As soon as the work was completed, I felt really confident about the effort I put into the performances.
io9: Obviously you can’t spoil anything but Jon, Josh, and Hayden just revealed they wrapped season five. What can you tell us about Kenny’s journey heading into the next season?
Young: I’m going to keep this answer vague, but I am in season five. What I can say about Kenny is that his arc continues to grow from season four and that he learns more and more about his inner strength.
Cobra Kai season four is now on Netflix. Season five just finished filming.
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