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Why Ericson From Rambo 2 Looks So Familiar

Sylvester Stallone starred in Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1985, the sequel to the 1982 hit film First Blood. Costarring Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, and Steven Berkoff, the film focuses on Rambo as he is released from prison in order to investigate prisoners of war in Vietnam. The story takes place three years after the events of the first film. The US orders Rambo to only observe and take photos of any camps and not to rescue anyone he finds, but Rambo doesn't listen. Left behind by his country, Rambo must fight his way out of Vietnam to safety, no matter the cost. 

One of the supporting characters, a new addition to the franchise in the second film, has an extensive résumé of past acting roles, and a face that many will recognize. in Rambo: First Blood Part II, Michael Reed Ericson is a mercenary helicopter pilot played by Martin Kove. He helps transport Rambo into the jungles of Vietnam and appears to be genuinely concerned for the man's survival.

For fans of older television and movies, Kove is definitely a familiar face — a veritable legend in the industry. With so many great past roles, it might be difficult to remember exactly where you've seen him before, but don't worry, we've got you covered. Here's why Martin Kove looks so familiar.

Martin Kove played Detective Victor Isbecki on Cagney & Lacey

From 1982 to 1988, Kove starred in the hit crime drama Cagney & Lacey. The series focuses on two female police detectives Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey, played by Sharon Gless and Tyne Daley, respectively. Created by Barbara Corday and Barbara Avedon, the series was definitely ahead of its time, tackling feminist issues like sexism in the workplace, equality in sports, and other aspects of daily life, as well as birth control, sexual assault, and drug abuse, among other things.

As a member of the main supporting cast, Kove plays Detective Victor Isbecki who works in New York City alongside the two women. A bit of a male chauvinist, Isbecki sometimes clashes with his coworkers and tries to take control of cases. His dream as a kid was to be a wild west sheriff, but that's kind of hard when you live in NYC, so a detective was the next best thing. Later on in Cagney & Lacey, Isbecki's more sensitive side appears as he deals with his mother's death from cancer, and a developing relationship with a single mother.

A reboot of Cagney & Lacey was planned, and a pilot was filmed in 2018, but CBS ultimately passed on the project (via Deadline).

Kove portrayed the villainous John Kreese in The Karate Kid trilogy

Kove starred alongside Pat Morita, Ralph Macchio, and William Zabka in The Karate Kid trilogy of films, arguably the most important role of the actor's career.

When Daniel first meets Kove's character, John Kreese, the intimidating man is the sensei of the local Cobra Kai dojo that trains kids in the art of Tang Soo Do and karate. Kreese's top student is Johnny Lawrence (Zabka), a bully who targets Daniel because of his friendship with Johnny's ex-girlfriend Ali (Elisabeth Shue). The handyman at Daniel's apartment complex, a kind man named Mr. Miyagi (Morita), agrees to teach Daniel karate to help him defend himself. When the bullying continues, Miyagi proposes a challenge to Kreese and Johnny — a chance to settle their conflict through an upcoming karate championship.

Kreese is an intense teacher who encourages his students to use illegal moves and brutality to win. Despite all his efforts to stop Daniel, the boy beats Johnny in the finals and becomes the champion. After the championship, Kreese attempts to bully Johnny for his failure, but Miyagi comes in and embarrasses the teacher, causing all of his students to abandon Cobra Kai dojo. In the third film, The Karate Kid Part III, Kreese returns for revenge on Daniel and Miyagi. It's a satisfying, villainous character arc — and one that's recently been reopened ...

Kove cameoed in Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as a sheriff

Small as the roles may be, all the cameos in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are important. The film is set in 1969 Los Angeles and follows the adventures of Leonardo DiCaprio's fading actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt's Cliff Booth, Dalton's stunt double and best friend. Kove was recruited to take on the role his Cagney & Lacey character always wanted to play, a fun Easter egg for fans of Hollywood trivia. In the film, Kove plays a villainous sheriff on a series called Bounty Law that Dalton stars in. All Kove has to do is sit back, smirk, and embrace the wild west feel. Sure, Kove only appears on screen for a short while, but it is a memorable appearance nonetheless. 

The Bounty Law show really emulates popular television series made in the 1950s and '60s, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood does a great job presenting an entertaining look at the industry. Other actors that make a cameo in the Bounty Law show are Michael Madsen, a longtime collaborator of Tarantino's, and James Remar.

Kove reprised the role of Kreese on Cobra Kai

In 2018, YouTube Red (later renamed YouTube Premium) rebooted The Karate Kid franchise in the most creative and exciting way possible with Cobra Kai, a television series that picks up more than three decades after the classic trilogy and stars many of the same actors. This time around, the story is told from the point of view of William Zabka's Johnny Lawrence, all grown up (sorta). 

Johnny is down on his luck. He's estranged from his young son and ex-wife and working as a handyman in the Valley. Paralleling Miyagi and Daniel's relationship, Johnny uses karate to help a neighbor boy named Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) fight off bullies. He eventually agrees to teach Miguel karate and reopens Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny takes in a group of misfits looking for guidance and attempts to reform the dojo into a more moral institution. This is all threatened when Johnny's old sensei Kreese (Kove) returns.

Cobra Kai goes further into Kreese's backstory, including his difficult upbringing and experience in the Vietnam War, which partially explains why he is so manipulative and intense. Although Johnny initially believes Kreese wants to become a better person, Kreese eventually maneuvers it so that he regains control of Cobra Kai dojo, kicking his former student out. For season 3, Cobra Kai made the jump from YouTube to Netflix, and the streamer quickly renewed the series for an upcoming season 4.

That's where you'll find Kove for the foreseeable future, though we wouldn't be surprised if his turn on Cobra Kai inspires a career renaissance.