Mary Mouser Interview

The new generation of teen characters on Cobra Kai informed a lot of what the Karate Kid characters have become. Johnny Lawrence wanted to train bullied kids like Miguel, Eli and Aisha. Daniel LaRusso has been training Johnny’s estranged son Robbie (Tanner Buchanan) while his own daughter Samantha, played by Mary Mouser, finally decided to pick up Karate at the end of season one.

Season two of Cobra Kai has as much drama with the younger cast as it does with the Karate Kid veterans. Samantha and Miguel broke up when Miguel got too aggressively into Cobra Kai. She’ll be training with Robbie under her father’s Miyagi-Do style, and can’t stay out of her father’s rivalry with Johnny.

Mouser spoke with /Film by phone before the second season of Cobra Kai. She told us about training for the second season in some unexpected styles, as well as Samantha’s romantic leanings and taking on the Karate Kid mantle. Season two of Cobra Kai premieres on April 24 on YouTube Premium.

Did it feel gratifying that people came to Cobra Kai to see Daniel and Johnny but they’re staying to see the next generation?

I still watch for Daniel and Johnny but I am definitely grateful for anyone who’s willing to stick around and be interested in our part as well. I have so much fun and just feel lucky to be in the presence of the coolest cast ever including the people from the original movie. It’s mind-boggling. So the fact that anyone would want to watch what I do after watching all of that completely blows my mind but I’m very grateful for it.

Do you think Samantha knew Mr. Miyagi during her life?

I think so. Being that in the show he passed away in 2011, I think she definitely knew him when she was younger. In my version of Samantha I think she wants to be just like dad and be super cool and into Karate, but in my imagination, Mr. Miyagi was around the family when she was young and sitting on his lap and hearing his stories about true Karate and what it means and all the lessons that he taught Daniel. I try to keep that in mind when acting as Samantha.

Were you waiting through all of season one to train?

I was tugging on everyone’s sleeves. I was very excited about just getting to be a part of the show, getting to be a part of the family, getting to be a part of this legacy, but I was definitely like, “Hey guys, when do I get to do something cool? When do I get to throw a punch?” Josh, Jon and Hayden, the creators, writers and directors, they were very patient with all of my begging and they were like, “Just you wait, just you wait.” When we got picked up for season two they were like, “Get yourself ready. We have a lot in store for you.” I’ve been loving every second of it.

So did you train in between seasons?

I did actually. So we had a month of official training before we went to start filming season two and then we had two weeks once we got to Georgia. But before any of that started, for about a month or month and a half, I got myself into a Muay Thai kickboxing gym just to get active. I have never been active a day in my life so this was a huge adjustment, going from never doing anything more than walking to the fridge to going to the gym five days a week and learning the vocabulary of martial arts so that I had some kind of foundation to go off of. Then we got all of our official training as well so I definitely feel like I got pretty prepped before we started.

Did you choose Muay Thai for yourself for any specific reason?

I had a friend who had trained in Karate at that gym for years growing up. She happened to be in town visiting. She was in England for school and she was in town and she was like, “Oh, everyone from my old dojo really loves the show. We should go by. They would freak out to get to see you and hear about firsthand what it’s like working with the guys.” And I was like, “Totally, whatever you want.” So we went over there and they started talking to me and were like, “You know, we have these classes. You should definitely join.” I was super nervous and I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do it.” I psyched myself out but they convinced me. I came to the first class and I completely fell in love. I totally would’ve started with Karate if I had found that class I think. I think the other difference too is with Cobra Kai, a lot of it isn’t strict Karate. A lot of the martial arts in the show is stunt work in combination with Karate. So they actually had these stunt classes at this gym and things like that, but I feel like I kind of got almost like a sped up version as well because with Karate, you start learning white belt level things and then yellow belt level things. For me, I was like I would love to put in the time to do that but currently I only have two months to look like I have been doing this for all of my life. So I’m going to do the fast track version. So Muay Thai and kickboxing gave me the vocabulary so that then I could learn more of the Karate style techniques later on.

Did you have to learn how to balance on the pond for real?

We did. That was the first thing that we learned. Tanner Buchanan, who plays Robbie, he and I got into training when we first got to Georgia. We did all the training that everybody else was doing and then right away, Hiro Koda who was our stunt coordinator and Jahnel Curfman who was our other stunt coordinator, they started practicing with us. They were like, “Here’s part one. Here’s part two.” Tanner and I actually got together a couple times on our own and we drilled it and drilled it and drilled it. We would have all these techniques we would use like this certain breathing that we would do extra loud so that the two of us could stay in sync with all the motions and things like that. That was a whole different thing from learning any of the punches and kicks I had been training beforehand which was really cool and very special to me.

Is there a new romance developing for Samantha?

I think it’s hard not to get caught up in feelings on all different sides and Samantha is still flirting. She’s still torn. She still doesn’t really know where her heart lies. She knows it’s with her family and she knows that her is with, now as she’s rediscovering herself, is also with Karate. But I feel like she’s pretty open to seeing a different side of things after what she went through with Miguel but I know she’s also still very caught up in that situation and I don’t know if her heart’s totally open to somebody new. Everyone will get to see.

Does she still have some feelings for Miguel?

I think definitely. That’s her first real love and she learns so much about herself through dating him and coming to terms with she didn’t want to be the cool girl anymore. She found somebody who meant something more than that to her. I think it’s hard to just put all that away, even that she was very upset with the way things ended.

Has Cobra Kai opened a lot of doors for you?

It’s cool and fun to be part of something like this where I feel like it brings with it a certain amount of clout, being able to be like, “Hey, remember Daniel LaRusso, the dude who shaped so many people’s lives and childhoods and adulthoods and all these aspects of your life? I get to play his daughter.” That’s definitely been really, really cool to drop at the dinner table every once in a while. I’m excited for what’s ahead. So far it’s been a lot of my time is spent on Cobra Kai which is where I want to be, and I’m excited to see what else I can squeeze in in the meantime.

When you were cast did you feel how monumental it would be to be Daniel LaRusso’s daughter?

Yes and no. I have admitted before I had not seen the movie before I auditioned for the show. My boyfriend who’s a big Karate Kid fan, it’s one of his all time favorite movies, he’s a total fanboy. I was like, “Oh, I have this audition today. I’ll see you later.” He’s like, “What’s the audition for?” I said, “This thing called Cobra Kai.” He’s like, “Are you kidding me?” Then he tried to not freak me out but he’s like, “Who are you auditioning for?” And I was like Samantha LaRusso and he was like, “What?” Then I was like, “Don’t freak me out, don’t freak me out.” So we didn’t talk about it much until we got to the end of the auditioning process. I walked into the final audition and there was Ralph Macchio. I was like, “Holy crap. Act like you knew this was going to happen.” I don’t know if I misread my email or whatever but I did not know he was going to be in there. I started completely freaking out and then from that moment, I was like wow, the full gravity of the situation hit me. Then I freaked myself out even more and I was like don’t think about it, don’t think about it. It’s a really cool show you’re auditioning for, that’s all. Then when I got the call that I actually booked it, I got a call just a little bit later from Ralph himself welcoming me into the LaRusso family. I think it all hit me and I was like holy crap, I get to be a part of this family, this legacy, this multi-generational storyline that keeps coming back to bring more people in and can relate to it from all these different places. The craziness of that hit me in that moment that I got a call from a New York number and I was like, “Who’s calling me from New York?” I pick up and it was his voice. It was amazing.

What has it been like for you as the show became an instant phenomenon last year?

It was pretty crazy. I knew while we were shooting, like, “Oh, this is really cool. This is not just cool. This is really freaking cool.” But at the same time, I guess I had never experienced a show quite like this. I had never been a part of something that had a teen centric story also have this adult centric story, also have this aspect of the history of Cobra Kai and the history of The Karate Kid, how all of that comes together. I’d never really done anything like this. I knew it was going to be cool. I hoped people would really like it. I hoped it would do well but I definitely had no concept in my wildest dreams of how much it would blow up. The fact that critics loved it, the fact that it got 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think it’s the best rated reboot show ever which is again insane. It’s definitely beyond my wildest dreams.

So you watched the movie when you got the role. When you started reading scripts, did it seem really appropriate the way Cobra Kai dealt with this generation of teenagers learning some of the same lessons in a different way?

I think it’s so cool the way that the guys have done that and created this world where these very traditional standards that I feel like my generation and generations following me are really working hard to break a lot of these gender stereotypes and these very typically masculine identities. We’re really working on opening up those terms and really removing words like that. Then the fact that this show didn’t shy away from that, again I felt like brought a whole new layer to it, showed how the parents of this generation and that gap, the gap between the way that people used to define cool and masculinity and tough and bully. All those terms have changed so much over the past 10, 20 years. The fact that showing how those kids can be tainted by those old versions of things, to have those lessons that Miyagi brought, how those also transcend generations. I don’t know if I’m quite making sense. Basically that I really love and respect the way that they’ve brought together all these different mindsets and put them in this big boiling pot and see how all that mixes together. I feel like it’s such the way to look at a fishbowl microscope version of the way the generations are clashing in different ways throughout our world right now.

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