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Martin Kove Agreed To Return As Cobra Kai's John Kreese Under One Condition - Exclusive

This article contains spoilers for "Cobra Kai" Season 5.

There's nothing more frustrating for an actor than to get typecast playing a specific kind of character, and even worse, for that character to see zero emotional growth in the role's duration. Given that Martin Kove played the quintessential villain as the menacing sensei John Kreese in the original "Karate Kid" trilogy in the 1980s, he had every reason to be concerned when he got called to reprise the character for the spin-off series "Cobra Kai."

Released in 1984, "The Karate Kid" starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso, a new kid who moves to California's San Fernando Valley and almost immediately becomes the target of bullies as he enters high school. Leading the taunts is Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), a rich kid who, along with his buddies, belongs to the Cobra Kai karate dojo, led by ex-Army Special Forces Captain Kreese and his mantra of "No mercy."

Thanks to their love of "The Karate Kid" films, producers Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg brought back Macchio and Zabka nearly 30 years after the trilogy ended with "Cobra Kai." The second time around, the roles were essentially reversed, with Johnny leading a broken life with little money and Daniel owning a successful car dealership. Johnny begins to find his way out of the doldrums, though, when he reopens the Cobra Kai dojo, which attracts the attention of Kreese and the full-fledged return of the character in Season 2.

Kove's return to the role of Kreese in "Cobra Kai" — now back with Season 5 — wasn't automatic, however. In a meeting with the series creators, Kove said he sought assurances that Kreese wasn't exactly going to be the same character that he originated three and a half decades before.

Kove says he wanted more vulnerability and versatility for Kreese in Cobra Kai

In an exclusive interview, Martin Kove told Looper that the reason he came back to "Cobra Kai" in 2019 was that the series' creators gave Kreese a lot more emotional depth — and his character has grown with more complexity ever since. "I signed on for this show because I wanted the character to be more vulnerable. I wanted the character to be more versatile," Kove said. "I told that to the writers — I wasn't interested in playing him like John Kreese in 'Karate Kid,' and every season, they're giving me more and more of this emotional texture."

In Season 5, Kreese finds himself in the unfamiliar surroundings of prison after he was framed for a vicious attack on a Cobra Kai student by his former dojo business partner and now ex-friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). Forced to adapt to life in an unforgiving environment, Kreese gets to play the best of both worlds as a tough guy who shows his vulnerabilities. "I enjoy that so much more. The tears you saw, the manipulation, the backdrop of all those characters in my life — that's what I love," Kove explained.

However, as the season unfolds, some of Kreese's behavior is revealed to be an act of deception. While what the future holds for Kreese is up in the air, Kove said he's hoping the creators will show that the character can be humbled. "Humility, I believe, is what they will write for me in the future — because I'd like for a future episode to have a woman who humbles John Kreese," Kove said. "It would have to be very subtle, but a character like [Kreese] who has come up the hard way and has a huge moral fiber ... Humility is something that would be great to play."

All five seasons of "Cobra Kai" are streaming exclusively on Netflix.