The apple didn't fall far from the tree for Jesse Kove who decided to follow in his father Martin Kove's footsteps becoming an actor even to the point of working with him on some of his projects, the latest in the Netflix series Cobra Kai. As the continuation of The Karate Kid film franchise, Jesse plays David, a man who bullied the younger John Kreese (Barrett Carnahan), to help shape the man he became to be in the films and current series. I spoke to Jesse about when he realized he found his calling, working with his father, his friendship with the series' stars, and the invaluable impact of his role in molding the franchise's primary antagonist.
"Growing up on sets was always a sight to see with my dad and stuff," Kove said. "It was always this fun environment to be in. It was always different and vast whether if it was cowboy movies, futuristic movies, or monsters. It was always fun and creative. Imagine seeing all those things in person, it's very different than watching them on the TV. It was always a fun world for me to be in and I enjoyed that. To see that as a kid to me was very exciting. Having understood later what this was for and what's it all about, I realized it was something I wanted to be doing." Kove nurtured his talents on the stage during middle and high school. "I was always in my theatre arts classes and directing classes," he continued. "It never ever felt like work. I always had a blast doing it. When I was doing theatre, I always got compliments telling me how I'm talented. When I turned 18, I just decided to do it professionally. My parents never pushed me into the industry. They always wanted me to make my own decisions. They didn't want to be stage parents I guess you can say."
While working with his father on set, Kove said Martin is always a consummate professional. "I would come to him sometimes if I had a question," he recalled. "[Dad] was kind of like a dictionary. For the most part, I would have my own interpretation. Sometimes, he would give me some pointers and it would always be helpful. It was always to enhance the performance. What better way to get it than from someone who's been in the business for 50 years? When I was younger, sometimes I would have to get over the fact that it wasn't my dad telling me what to do rather, an artist helping me perfect my art." One of Martin's distinguishing characteristics and invaluable wisdom he passed to Jesse is his willingness to exhibit patience in the craft.
"Being very still and listening is one of those lessons," Kove said. "If you notice [Martin] on Cobra Kai, he's always very still. It's interesting to watch. I imparted that in my own career as well, which I value very much." He embraces The Karate Kid franchise as part of his family's legacy. Jesse said the bond from its stars with his father, Ralph Macchio (Daniel LaRusso), and William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) extends to himself as well. "My dad is very close with Ralph and Billy," he said. "I talked to Ralph many times over the years through my dad. Billy's become a good friend, and he's known me since I was very little. He's also a great guy. It's been great to see the three of them go on this journey together. They travel the world together as well. It's exciting to see their friendship flourish this way as well."
As David, the actor remains grateful for the impact he's able to have on shaping his father's character. "The flashback sequences were very important for the show," Jesse said. "It's exciting for me to be a part of that. It was also exciting for the creators and my father as well. He was watching when we did all those scenes. Everybody was excited to know that I was going to play the bully to the young John Kreese and I also happened to be the son [of the actor who played him]. So it was a very special intimate moment for everybody. You can tell on set since everyone who works on the series is a huge fan of the movies. They worked so hard."
Given the time passed since Netflix's release of Cobra Kai season three, Jesse reflected on the impact of diving into Kreese's past as a man who was not only bullied but also hardened from his experience in the Vietnam War with his newfound more sympathetic light. "It's nice of them to give John Kreese a new identity and have a new understanding of where he comes from," he said. "I think it was needed. He's labeled as the villain, but I think people forget at some point, there was a turn where they once had nobler intentions and good when they were younger. Maybe they were bullied. People loved to hate my dad's character. It's similar to my character, who played this asshole. It was fun for me to play. We definitely have a new view of him. I think they enjoy it and not everybody loves the bad guy, but now they can justify it more."
Jesse points out the Ford David drives during the flashback sequences is the same one Miyagi (Pat Morita) gives Daniel in the 80s films jokingly saying maybe he sold it to him. "If I can be involved in any further [into season 4 or a spinoff], that would be great," the actor said. "Barrett and I are very good friends. We had a blast playing these characters on the show. It's been a blast to explore those characters in that time period. I would like to explore David more." All three seasons of Cobra Kai are available to stream on Netflix.