Dallas Dupree Young: Cobra Kai Interview
Cobra Kai season 5 is here at last for the show's biggest battle of rival karate masters yet. Cobra Kai season 4 ended on a cliffhanger with the defeat of Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang by Cobra Kai at the All-Valley Tournament. This left every character with a dark challenge to overcome with Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) consolidating his hold over the Valley's martial arts community, and this includes the turn of one of Cobra Kai's new students Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young).SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
In Cobra Kai season 4, the bullying Kenny was experiencing led him through Cobra Kai's doors with guidance from Robby (Tanner Buchanan). However, both learn very different lessons by the end of the season, with Robby coming to see the dangers of the Cobra Kai philosophy espoused by Terry Silver and John Kreese (Martin Kove), while Kenny is fully immersed in it. For Cobra Kai season 5, Kenny's story will take him along the same path that Robby himself once walked within the mercy-free karate dojo.
RELATED: Explaining Terry Silver's Cobra Kai Expansion & Master Plan
We speak to Dallas Dupree young in the making of Cobra Kai seasons 4 and 5, the training he and the cast underwent for the show with fight coordinator Don Lee and the show's stunt team, and how Kenny's story will progress from season 4 to season 5.
Screen Rant: What has the experience on Cobra Kai been the past few seasons in terms of working through the pandemic?
Dallas Dupree Young: It’s definitely been challenging, especially during season 4. That was during the heart of COVID, and season 5 was a little more relaxed, but season 4 was so difficult battling COVID. We couldn’t even really interact with each other off set, so it was interesting, but we made it through and we’ve done two great seasons!
Kenny had quite a story play out in season 4 in joining Cobra Kai to fight his bullies, and by the end, he’s really internalized Cobra Kai’s “No Mercy” philosophy. What can you share about where Kenny is going in season 5?
Dallas Dupree Young: What I can say about Kenny in season 5 is he has a lot of major breakthroughs in this season. You learn more about his character and his evolution as a student. He’s still a fierce competitor and everyone will see that, so with what you saw in season 4 continuing on into season 5, you see him keep growing as a character and flourishing as a student, and his story is very strong and impactful throughout.
When you first joined Cobra Kai, did you have any previous martial arts experience or did you mainly train once you joined the show?
Dallas Dupree Young: Yeah, when I first booked Cobra Kai, I had a little bit of martial arts experience, but not too much. I had done kickboxing with my friends when I was 12 or 13, and I did that for about a year, and I think it helped prepare me for Cobra Kai, so I feel really blessed that I took the class, and I’d also trained when I was five years old. I only got to an orange belt, which isn’t that far, and then took a long break, but the heart of my training really happened when I booked Cobra Kai.
What did your training for Cobra Kai entail?
Dallas Dupree Young: The training was definitely intense for Cobra Kai, but I had such an incredible time working with Don Lee and whole the team on the show. We had a great time learning the philosophy of karate and focusing on the basics of everything we need to know. It was really exciting and nerve-wracking for me, especially for season 4. Once we got to season 5, I was a little more relaxed, and it was just an exciting time, and we enjoyed every single second of it.
From season 4 and season 5, as far as Kenny’s training and fight scenes, what have been some of your personal favorites of his moments in the dojo or in the All-Valley Tournament?
Dallas Dupree Young: Well, even though I did get beat up, my favorite Kenny fight would definitely have to be the one against Robby. It was just so well executed from Tanner Buchanan and the writers did such a great job with the storyline aspect of the fight scene. We had such an incredible time doing that, it was so action-packed and exciting and had a lot of emotion involved, so I’d have to go with that one for Kenny.
Well, moving into season 5 from that, Kenny is still going down the Cobra Kai path headed into season 5 and Robby was kind of his guide in entering Cobra Kai and now they’re going on some different paths. What can you say about Kenny and Robby’s relationship in season 5?
Dallas Dupree Young: I really can’t say too much about it, but they will have some interactions in season 5, and all I can really say is the fans are really going to enjoy them!
Going back to season 4, you mentioned that was more challenging in terms of working through the pandemic compared to season 5. How would you say the experience of the two seasons was different in terms of how season 5 changed from season 4 with the training and fight scenes and the pandemic in the background?
Dallas Dupree Young: I feel like season 4 differentiated itself from season 5 big time because my mindset was a little different for season 4 since I was establishing myself into an already established cast. It was extremely never-wracking for me and I wanted to get every single point right, and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself for season 4. But then, once season 5 happened, I understood my character and what he means to every single scene, what he’s thinking about and his mindset at all times, and I knew everybody in the cast and crew and stunt choreographers by that point. So, pretty much the fight scenes were me trying to get all my movements down and making sure my technique is correct, and just having fun at the same time. I think I just needed to loosen up a bit, so for season 5, I was a lot more relaxed, and I felt a lot better about my stunt scenes and my choreography. And then with the pandemic, we filmed season 5 after COVID was starting to evaporate a little bit and we were able to hang out outside of the set again.
You also mentioned your favorite fight was with Robby in the All-Valley Tournament in season 4, and by that point, Kenny has become a somewhat more aggressive character after joining Cobra Kai to fight back against his bullies. What can you share (avoiding spoilers!) about what that trajectory is taking him towards in season 5?
Dallas Dupree Young: I think what led him down the dark side path is mainly the Cobra Kai philosophy. He was learning 'Strike First! Strike Hard! No Mercy!' as a kid who loved to play video games and cosplay all the time, so being in that environment affected the kind of character he was going into season 5, and you'll continue to see the evolution of him and the Cobra Kai way in season 5. I think people are going to like it and it's really exciting.
Speaking of that, what in general were some of your favorite stand-out parts or moments with Kenny, whether fight scenes or character moments with him?
Dallas Dupree Young: Yeah, so I'm going to stay away from spoilers and go to my first day back on set after being away for a few months and coming back and getting ready for my first fight sequence. I remember just screaming 'We are back, baby!' It was so exciting getting to work with everyone in the cast again, and we were just dancing around listening to music and working on our stunt choreography, so I think that might have been the highlight. Also, just being around Oona O'Brien and Griffin Santopietro, we actually got the chance to hang out for the first time, so that was a really great experience.
And with season 4 being overseen by Terry Silver and John Kreese and that having changed through events in season 4, with Terry Silver having a much more direct command over Cobra Kai, does that impact Kenny's mindset in season 5 and where he goes in the season?
Dallas Dupree Young: Uh, oh geez! Here's the thing - Terry Silver's leadership plays a really significant role in the evolution of Kenny in season 5 and how my character grows. I'm not going to go too much in depth on that, but I've got to give all praise to Thomas Ian Griffith. His acting is unbelievable and he's a great leader on and off-set, he's pretty much like our mentor in real life. So, the relationship between Terry and Kenny will definitely be seen and it's going to be really exciting for everyone to witness that.
And speaking of him, you've worked alongside all the veterans of The Karate Kid franchise on Cobra Kai, including Thomas Ian Griffith, Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and Martin Kove. What was it like just meeting all of them for the first time and working with them when you joined Cobra Kai?
Dallas Dupree Young: Yeah, meeting all of them on Cobra Kai was an unbelievable experience for me, and something that I will never forget and I'll cherish for the rest of my life. I remember introducing myself and being SO extremely nervous because of course I'd watched them in The Karate Kid movies. Just seeing them in person and getting to have a real conversation with them, they're the sweetest people you will ever meet, and just so kind and respectful. So, just getting to meet them was a completely different story than when I got to work with them, because this is my life, and I'm extremely blessed and I'm so grateful for the opportunity I've been given from God. It's incredible getting to work with all these veterans, it's really something special.
And actually, entering a long-running martial arts franchise like Cobra Kai, was it your first martial arts-heavy role in your career?
Dallas Dupree Young: Yes, definitely my most martial art-heavy role.
So, in venturing into those waters, were there any big learning curves or injuries for you with the training you did for Cobra Kai?
Dallas Dupree Young: Yeah, there were definitely some learning curves. The best thing about Don Lee is that he really taught us some much about karate and also about the mental aspect of it of being able to breath and let go and release all of that tension you have and be just in the moment. I did have a few injuries, but they were very minor, but I was able to deal with them quickly and that's just a part of the role. It's karate, so it happens, and that was also a part of the learning curve, because I was able to not make the same mistakes twice.
Cobra Kai Season 5 Synopsis
Kai takes place over 30 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament with the continuation of the inescapable conflict between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
Following the shocking results of the All Valley Tournament, Season 5 finds Terry Silver expanding the Cobra Kai empire and trying to make his "No Mercy" style of karate the only game in town. With Kreese behind bars and Johnny Lawrence setting karate aside to focus on repairing the damage he’s caused, Daniel LaRusso must call on an old friend for help.
Check out our other interviews with Cobra Kai stars:
- Xolo Maridueña, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Mary Mouser & Peyton List
- Ralph Macchio & William Zabka
- Thomas Ian Griffith & Yuji Okumoto
- Dallas Dupree Young, Oona O'Brien & Griffin Santopietro
All episodes of Cobra Kai season 5 are now available to stream on Netflix.
Cobra Kai season 5 is now on Netflix.