Cobra Kai S04 Star Thomas Ian Griffith on "Absurd" Terry Silver Return
Thomas Ian Griffith was content retiring from acting with his final project in the 2007 TV movie The Kidnapping. Perhaps the last thing on his mind was reprising one of his most iconic roles in Terry Silver, the ponytailed toxic-waste mogul and sociopath villain of 1989's The Karate Kid Part III. Terry, who is the co-founder of Cobra Kai with fellow Vietnam War vet and best friend John Kreese (Martin Kove), was the one-time sensei to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) teaching him the ways of the "dark side". Griffith spoke to EW about his initial thoughts on the Netflix series Cobra Kai upon its premiere on YouTube and how he didn't feel his character's over-the-top nature would fit the new series before being won over by creators and executive producers Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg.
Griffith was content away from the spotlight and developed a new passion along the way. "You know, I'd been working as an actor my whole career," he said. "Our two boys were young, and I was out of town literally eight months out of the year. I'd be in Eastern Europe or wherever, and I'd be hearing these little milestones I've been missing in their lives. I said, 'I have to make a change.' We had sold a couple of scripts early on, so when I got back to LA, I went to my literary agent and said, 'I want to do this full-time.' Then the horse took off in that direction. And, you know, I had no regrets simply because I felt I had been running in place with my career, doing the same type of thing as an actor."
The 59-year old wasn't in any hurry to go back. "I loved the writing process — you still get to play all the characters as you're creating," Griffith said. "In fact, I drive my wife [Mary Page Keller] crazy when we're in the office. I have to say all my dialogue out loud to make sure [it works]. My wife always said, 'You'll go back eventually.' And I was like, 'Eh, if the right role came along,' not thinking this would be it at all. God's honest truth. Then when it came up, she was the one that said, 'You have to do this. This would be incredible.' And my boys watched the series, and they were like, 'Dad, you're doing this!' They loved it. And that's what I think is so special about the show: that it crosses over with the different generations."
When it came to the franchise, Griffith was clear about the conditions of his return. "I really have no interest in repeating anything," he said. "So how do we round out a guy like that? How do we get back to what made this guy tick? What drove him inside and what would make him come back into this world? The [Cobra Kai] creators had really thought that out. With [Karate Kid Part III director] John Alvidsen, I'd be like, This is a little over the top.' And he was like, 'I want every little kid in America kicking you in the shins.' He just gave me free rein to run with it. [Something] I think we've kept alive with Terry [on Cobra Kai] is bringing back that glee he has. He actually enjoys this — he's this billionaire who will have all this going on and [still] go back to the small little world of a karate tournament in the Valley. It's so absurd that it's fantastic!"
For more on Griffith talking about him growing out Terry's signature ponytail again, how martial arts shaped his life, and the dynamic between Silver and Kreese, you can go to EW. Cobra Kai season four premieres on December 31 on Netflix.