'Cobra Kai' Star Xolo Mariduena Talks Miguel's New Skills And A New Romance In Season 2 [Interview]

Cobra Kai became an instant hit on YouTube Premium because millions of viewers wanted to see where Johnny Lawrence and Daniel Larusso are today. But while watching 10 episodes of Cobra Kai, fans became equally invested in the new generation of high school students training in Karate, especially Miguel, played by Xolo Mariduena.Johnny really took Miguel under his wing, even more so than his own estranged son Robbie. But training in Cobra Kai make Miguel a little too aggressive  and cost him his relationship with Samantha LaRusso. Miguel beat Robbie in the All Valley Karate Tournament, but only be exploiting Robbie's injury, sort of like the way John Kreese (Martin Kove) told Johnny to sweep the leg.Mariduena spoke with /Film by phone before the premiere of Cobra Kai's second season. Season two will introduce new characters, like the returning Kreese and new Cobra Kai student Tori (Peyton List). Cobra Kai season two premieres on April 24 on YouTube Premium.Did you find in the first season that people came for Daniel and Johnny, but stayed for the new generation of Cobra Kai and Karate kids?Yeah, I would say the eyes are definitely drawn towards Ralph Macchio and Billy Zabka and eventually Marty, Martin Kove. But I would say that the storyline underneath all of that is the one of the kids, of the Cobras, of Mary Mouser who plays Sam and Tanner who plays Robbie. I would say that, yes, 90% of the people are coming for those big names but learn to find something else that they love with the younger cast.Did Miguel have his own sweep the leg moment in the season finale at the All Valley Karate Tournament?I would say yes in the sense that there was that need to win at the very end for both Johnny and Miguel, but I think the only difference is that Johnny didn't win and Miguel won and really raised the bar all the way in terms of showing no mercy. Not so much the leg but really doing everything in his power to secure the victory.Will Miguel find that victory doesn't feel so good when you win that way?There's a little clip on Instagram right now that kind of covers that. It's basically Johnny scolding us, giving us the talk about why it's important to make sure that we're diligent when it comes to the rules in the tournament setting, fighting someone who has an injury. So I think it's definitely addressed in season two.Has Miguel's story shown how some kids who were bullied can become bullies themselves?Yeah, that's very much a theme in season one where you see at the very beginning, even in the episode he gets beat up by Tyler and these older guys at the school. We see throughout the season that not only is he more confident but as he incorporates Cobra Kai into his life, that it really brings a newfound sense of, not power, but just that confidence in himself. We see that he takes it a little bit overboard during the tournament when he ends up harming Robbie, or taking advantage of his already harmed state and really just doesn't take into account all of the previous lessons he's learned and really only listens to Cobra Kai.Power is a good point to bring up. Is it a cautionary tale about how power can corrupt. Even if you're coming to Karate for the right reasons, you have to be careful to let it corrupt you?Yes, I would definitely say that's a really important idea in the first and second season. Making sure, just like you said, that although you may have the right intentions going into Karate or anything for that matter, that you kind of have your checks and balances and say, "Hey, is this why I came into, in this case, Karate? And am I still following those ideals?"Have you kept up the training between seasons?Yes, so in-between season one and season two, myself, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Tanner Buchanan and even Billy, Ralph and Marty. The younger cast all had our own personal trainers so we would train with them two or three times a week. We definitely do keep up with training but it's a lot of stretching more than anything. A common misconception is that it's Karate 100% of the time and that's all that we're doing. To be quite honest, Karate is probably the least of what we train in. We train with stretching and boxing I would say 70-80% of the time. The rest of that is Karate.Did you learn any new moves for season two?Yes, you can definitely see a progression with every single person in season two when it comes to our ability to perform with not only martial arts, but what we're able to accomplish on screen. It definitely is larger than the first season. So again, I can't say exactly what but there was a lot more work that was put into season two.Is Tori a new love interest for Miguel?Tori definitely is someone in Miguel's life. I think we'll see how far that relationship will go. She is definitely, now that we end season one with Sam basically being out of Miguel's life in totality, we see Tori coming into Cobra Kai and really shake things up for not only Miguel, but a lot of the other Cobras. It's definitely going to be an interesting way to test out chemistry when it comes to Tori and Miguel.Is it a love triangle because Miguel still has feelings for Samantha?Yes, Samantha definitely is the first person that he's liked. He's experienced so much and learned so much through her that I think just with all of those things considered, of course he's going to have feelings for her. But I think as the season progresses, we'll see that his attention is dragged somewhere else. Not necessarily at another girl, but just with other things in general.This whole series is about Johnny looking for redemption, but is there redemption for Miguel too?I think I would say that redemption was found at the end of season one when Miguel finally won, but I think he realizes very soon that maybe what he thought he wanted to redeem was actually not at all what he needed to redeem. I think he realizes that, shoot, maybe this isn't what I was supposed to be striving for. Maybe there's more than just winning this tournament. Maybe it's more than living out the Cobra Kai mantra word by word. We're going to see in season two how he takes hold of that.Fans got a glimpse of John Kreese at the end of season one. What is it like for Miguel when Kreese becomes a sensei again?We definitely see that he's skeptical. You're brought into season two with Johnny who's been telling Miguel one thing and Kreese who's coming in and telling Miguel a totally different thing. We're definitely going to see another triangle between Johnny and Kreese, how that sense of power and it's going to be a constant battle between Johnny and Kreese to see who the real sensei is for Cobra Kai and what their ideals are.Is Miguel's friendship with Hawk tested this season?We definitely see, like with all teenage boys, there is a sense of competitiveness with doing a sport. Or doing anything together for that matter so there is that sense of, between Hawk and Miguel, there is a sense of who wants to be better. We're both striving to be the best student at Cobra Kai and I think sometimes that jades what our beliefs are just because we have our eye on the prize, whether that be a competition or just fighting each other to see who's better.When Hawk goes overboard, does that test their friendship even further?He definitely pushes the envelope to say the least. We're going to see a lot of characters this season push the envelope, but I think what people need to understand is that just like Miguel did at the end of season one, his mindset is not that he's going overboard. It's that he's fulfilling what he was told to do. Audiences, viewers, they should constantly remind themselves that these characters don't feel like what they're doing is wrong, but more so they feel really the opposite. They feel as though what they're doing is completely correct and this is what they're supposed to be doing. So you definitely will see characters pushing the envelope, but not because they feel like they're being bad. Just because they feel like what they're doing is right.What has life been like in the past year for you since Cobra Kai came out and became such a sensation?It's been one of the craziest experiences to see a show that, before we came out, the biggest reactions were either "Oh my gosh, is this show a joke or a parody?" to "Oh, why are they bringing this back? They're just going to ruin it." Then when the show came out, all of those people that were like, "Ha ha, this show is going to be trash," it came out and they were like, "This actually is pretty good. I was wrong. I can't wait for season two." It's so awesome to see that. This is one of the, not even sequels, but continuations that was done right. I think it's all because of Billy, Ralph and the writers, and directors for that matter, who brought this project together to really make sure that, they waited 30-something years, and they really made sure that they were going to do it right. If they were going to come back, it was going to be done right and that's just what happened.Because there's such a diverse cast in the students of Cobra Kai, have you heard from a lot of kids who say they relate to Miguel?I think every single audience member can relate in one way or another to not only the kids in Cobra Kai but everyone in the show. Every person, they have struggles that are addressed and very, very real moments in their lives that everyone experiences. So I think people can relate to both Miguel and Robbie or Ralph and Johnny so I think there's a lot of those moments where you're like I agree with what this person is doing but I also understand why the other person is doing this. So the show is very gray. It's not black and white. There's not a good guy and a bad guy. What tends to happen is there's a lot of these gray areas, middle areas where we're like I don't know who to root for. That's because we can relate to both parties.