Martin Kove talks about reprising his iconic role as John Kreese in Cobra Kai and his friendship with Sylvester Stallone

Martin Kove talks about reprising his iconic role as John Kreese in Cobra Kai and his friendship with Sylvester Stallone
Martin Kove (Source: Getty Images)

The Karate Kid became a fan favorite when it first released in 1984 and yet again, the show is about to win the hearts of millions as Robert Mark Kamen is bringing back the roots of the movie in Cobra Kai, a 10-episode series which premiered on YouTube Red on May 2, 2018. Ralph Macchio and William Zabka will be reprising their role on the show but Robert has another treat in store for the fans as he is bringing back Martin Kove on the show. 

Martin became a fan favorite after he came in 'The Karate Kid' franchise, taking on the role of the psychopathic Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese. In the movie, Martin's character (John Kreese) is an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran. As one proceeds to watch the movie, it becomes clear that John is a violent, cruel, brutal man who instructs his students that one should be merciless towards their enemies and orders his students to use illegal methods in order to win the tournament. 

Yet again, Martin will be reprising his role as John Kreese in Cobra Kai. The series will be set thirty years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament. The series focuses on the reopening of the Cobra Kai dojo by old rivals Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). While talking to Meaww, Martin opened up about how the return of his character John on the show will help recreate the feud which happened nearly 30 years ago. 


"John Kreese returns in episode 10 to surprise Johnny Lawrence. They believed him to be dead but he has survived either the KGB, the CIA, prison or selling magazine subscriptions in the telemarketing industry," Martin revealed. "Where he has been in the last 30 years no one knows. The tension between Daniel and Billy is well written and I believe John Kreese will capitalize upon their conflict. A little bit of good and a lot of bad seems to permeate the potential description of his series participation." 

The big question now is about where his character has been for nearly 30 years? Martin seems to find pleasure in playing the role once again because of the same. He believes one can develop the character a lot more easily when people do not where or what the character had been up to. "I am thrilled to return with this iconic character because no one knows where he has been for 30 years and its always a pleasure to create a character development based on the unknown," he said. 


"The writers imply there's a lot of goodness in him and maybe a lot of bits bad...  I am thrilled with such creative entities whose perception could maximize the future potential of this character.  Bad guys who turn good are often the most interesting roles in film and TV.  I like bad guys who turn good."  Even though it has been a long wait since the audience got to see Martin as John, he knew he had to come back to the show because of a dream he had about it. 

"I had a dream weeks before I shot episode 10 in Atlanta, that this character would appear out of the darkness with a cigar with the audience visualizing nothing but surprise, contempt and the energy to facilitate chaos," he revealed. While The Karate Kid has been one of his most iconic roles, yet another series that helped Martin leave his mark on the industry was his character Detective Victor Isbecki in 'Cagney and Lacey'. 

Martin recalls that he had to audition for the show. "I believe Barney Rosenzweig, creator, and showrunner felt that either one of the three people who auditioned was adequate and capable of doing the job," he recalled. "I won due to my agent's association with the casting agent." What made the series an experience worth remembering was the cast and their down to earth character. 


"The most exciting event of "Cagney & Lacey" aside from loving the cast since there were no fragile egos in the show was completing my research with "ride-along" in the San Bernardino Police Dept. where I created the essence and the back-story of my character Victor Isbecki. Victor chose the 14the Precinct (based on my research) to be a Marshall in the Old West but became Detective Victor Isbecki in the 14th because it was the closest thing he could do to become a Peace Officer in the Old West," he said. 

There is no doubt that with great works, Martin was also able to create a friendship over time. The actor has starred in movies like Rambo, the White Buffalo, and others. Among these, Rambo not only brought fame at his doorstep but also the friendship of Sylvester Stallone. "Sly and I worked together on 2 other films prior to "Rambo": one "Capone" with Ben Gazzara and "Death Race 2000" with David Carradine," he recalled. 


"Sly is a very funny man and we have maintained a friendship over the years. In the early days of New York in the early '70's we shared a Personal Manager, Kuno Sponholtz, who would get Sly a job at the Baronet Theatre as an usher and myself as Santa Claus at Abraham & Strauss Dept. Store. Sly lasted longer as an usher than I did as I Santa Claus."

While the two have had many cherished memories, there is one in particular that he can never forget. "During Rambo one Saturday night at this disco with Sly and the bodyguards, girls would ask him to dance and he, of course, would say no," he recalled. "He couldn't ask anyone dance because that would be somewhat uncomfortable for a would-be boyfriend lurking in the shadows. 

"Ultimately he was damned if he danced with a girl and damned if he didn't.  One boyfriend in particular when a specific girl asked him to dance and he refused the boyfriend came up to him and said: "what.....too good for my girl?" Dammed if he did and damned if he didn't. As a result, a fight broke out, the bodyguards and I lifted him up above our shoulders and we got out of there. We all should have such problems.  It was 30 years ago, my memory might have failed me with some other devious moments. " 


Now, with a series of movies and shows under his name, Martin recalls that his love for acting started at a very young age. "In the 4th grade at PS 161 in Brooklyn doing the play "The Golden Goose"," he recalled. " I laughed my way into passionately discovering I enjoyed the stage and never wanted to professionally entertain anything else for a living." 

When asked if there is any piece of advise that has been his source of inspiration throughout his career, he recalled one that was given to him when he was in the fifth year of his college. "I was accepted in the NY School of the Arts.  It would have been my 5th year of college.  I was also accepted to work with the classical stage repertory company also known CSC and I was confused whether I should go out and gamble my life away in the arts or go and entertain more academic studies at NY School of the Arts," he said. 

"Simultaneously I got a job as a stand-in for Sean Connery in the film "The Anderson Tapes."  I asked him should one go out there and work professionally and take a shot or stay in school and get an education. He said to me "Young Man if you can do 'Antigone' you can do anything."  So his answer was to go out there and get a job. Forget about school. A similar experience occurred in an airport where I approached James Mason and he congenially gave me the exact same response "get out there."


While Martin already has Cobra Kai to please his fans. He has several other roles in which he can be seen in the coming months. "I am playing John Burns in an upcoming film about the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War entitled "Measure of Devotion" being directed by Brian Naydol and in late summer working on a love story as a muse in the art world entitled "In Search of the Miraculous," Martin revealed. 

Share this article:

 Martin Kove talks about John Kreese in Cobra Kai