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Cobra Kai's Griffin Santopietro Talks Anthony LaRusso's Big Dilemma In Season 4 And Superheroes - Exclusive Interview

Since "Cobra Kai" kicked off in 2018, the "Karate Kid" spinoff series has examined the storylines of many characters, primarily those central to the movie series, including Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and John Kreese (Martin Kove). However, it quickly became apparent that "Cobra Kai" was just as much about the generation of students that followed Daniel and Johnny, including Daniel's daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser), Johnny's estranged son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan), and Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) — a next door neighbor of Johnny's in need of a father figure.

Also establishing a presence in Seasons 1 through 3 of "Cobra Kai" is Daniel and Amanda LaRusso's (Courtney Henggeler) son, Anthony (Griffin Santopietro), but the young actor didn't have as compelling a storyline as his teen predecessors. That's all about to change, though, with Season 4 of "Cobra Kai," now on Netflix. Along with a growth spurt, Anthony finds out in his first big step into adulthood how easy it is to get caught up in group who relentlessly bullies Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young), a new student at their school. The irony, of course, is that Kenny's situation is the same one Anthony's father faced at the hands of Johnny and his Cobra Kai teammates in "The Karate Kid."

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Santopietro discusses the parallels of Anthony's storyline and the real-life issue of bullying in schools. Also, the actor discusses his work with Macchio and Zabka, and he reveals his hopes for future roles in Hollywood.

Anthony becomes what his father is against

As we find out in Season 4, Anthony LaRusso is not following in his dad's footsteps because you're more on the bully side of the equation. To me, that's the interesting part of the show, that things don't always go the way you might expect them to go.

Yeah, absolutely. I thought it was a really interesting way to go, where you put Daniel's son in a bully situation of being the bully instead of the victim like Daniel was. I think the show has always been subverting that expectation, obviously starting out with showing Johnny's side of the story. I just thought it was an interesting way to go. It'd be so easy just to make Daniel's son just another Daniel.

Anthony is not a straight-up bully, though. There is some hesitancy there. Anthony knows what he's doing is wrong, but then again, there's the crowd that pressures him, which makes the character more complex. That has to be the most ideal situation for an actor, to have some complexity instead of a black-and-white role.

Yeah, totally. Someone said this to me that it's important to tell the bystander story as well as the bully and victim ... a lot of kids these days aren't always so malicious in bullying. Their friends do it, so they do it with them. [It's interesting being on the show for] years and then finally getting to have this storyline, because this whole time Anthony's just been a jerk, and no one really knows why. But [it's important] to actually show that Anthony doesn't really want to do this. He doesn't know what else to do.

What's the biggest thing you want teens to take away from your storyline this season?

I think it's important to show that a lot of kids can relate to having their friends bully someone or people they know and being involved in that. And I think it's important to show that it can happen so fast, and it does. Just because you get caught up in it, it doesn't mean you're a bad person. It just means that you need to find who your real friends are — especially since Anthony's in eighth grade during it, and eighth grade is a very stressful year when it comes to social atmosphere. So, I think it's important for people to see that anybody can get caught up in this stuff. It's just about finding who you are and finding your people.

Griffin Santopietro loves working opposite Zabka and Macchio

Now you and William Zabka, I love it in the second episode when you two butt heads. I also talked with Mary Mouser and Tanner Buchanan, and they both just love the guy, and think he's so hilarious. I would imagine you feel the same way. That must be a blast to play opposite him.

Yeah, that was so much fun, and that was the only time I had got to work with him since, I think, Season 1, where I had the same kind of interaction with him, but he's just the funniest guy and he's so great, but it's fun. I really do like that we were able to butt heads, just like this kid was like, "What is it?" We're not necessarily mad at each other. We don't like each other for no reason. I'm just like, "I don't want you in my house." And he's like, "I don't want you here." But it was so much fun getting to do that with him.

How helpful has Ralph Macchio been to you over the course of this series? I mean, because obviously you share a lot of time with him and a lot of time with Courtney Henggeler. But Ralph, he just must be such of a positive force and a great influence to you, maybe in the same way that Pat Morita was a real-life positive influence to Ralph.

Totally. It's been so great getting to work with this guy. He's the most hands-on and devoted person I've ever really gotten to work with, and I've worked with him a lot. Since I was 11, I've been getting to watch this guy put his effort in and between takes he'll move stuff if it's not working. He's the most hands-on person, and so, I think he's taught me a lot about acting and about professionalism in general. For five years I've been with this guy. So, I do think he's been a very important person in my life to get to finally have great scenes with him and get to see how he does everything and get to play off it. It was really, really great this season.

The Karate Kid films remain classics to Santopietro

The "Karate Kid" films are great films and "Cobra Kai" to me is the definitive spinoff series. I would imagine you watched those original films as part of your homework for this show, but do you look at them differently since you became a part of the series?

It's interesting. I don't think so. I think they were always classic to me. I think I could watch them and have the same thoughts that are going through my head when I watched them when I was 10 years old. I do find it interesting, for the fact that I'm watching these iconic films and I actually get to work with these people in the film. That's a very good question. I think re-watching them now, I see them the same. I enjoy them just the same, but I think actually knowing these people in this film is crazy. I think that's the part that changed for me is that this guy that I'm watching is the guy that I get to work with.

Santopietro has several all-time favorites films

I'm sure, just for the main reason that you're involved with "Cobra Kai," that the "Karate Kid" films have to be up there among your all-time favorites. But apart from those, what do you consider the gold standards for your all-time favorite films? It could be any genre.

Well, I think I'd have to separate it in between genres. I think comic book movies, I would say like "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is my top comic book movie. As far as action-adventure movies go, I really like the first "Back to the Future." I think it's just got a really good formula and just it's a really great movie. ... also, "Baby Driver." That was a movie that I really, really like. I just recently re-watched that. Also, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" was something I watched. I saw it for the first time during quarantine, and I watched it one more time right after. It was really, really good. But yeah, I'm a big movie guy, so it's hard to pick my favorite.

Santopietro would leap for the chance to be in a superhero film

Now you have me interested. You mentioned the big superhero fan and if you've seen "Into the Spider-Verse." If you could get into the Marvel Cinematic Universe or DC, is there any particular character that you would say, "God, I'd love a crack at that?"

This is another thing that I'm going to have to split up. I would say DC, right? I think any of the Robins would be really fun, and Superboy, either of them. In Marvel, once they reboot it in a few years, "Spider-Man" would be pretty cool. Then, I'm trying to think — there aren't many. Oh, Kid Loki [in the MCU] I think would be cool. There are a lot of characters that I always been interested to play, but luckily, we have years and years of comic books to read, so there are plenty of characters. But yeah, I'd say those are my top [choices].

Tanner Buchanan said he's also interested in Robin. So, it looks like you're going to have to go head-to-head for the role!

I've talked to him about this. I've talked to him about Nightwing ad nauseam, but I would say that he would be a good Nightwing and then I could be his protégé. I could be his Tim Drake if he needed one. I think we could both be Robins if he wants to be Nightwing. But we talked about Nightwing so much.

Santopietro would love to work with Andrew Garfield

You have some pretty amazing co-stars already. I mentioned Ralph. I mentioned William, and we talked about Tanner. Is there anybody in your future that you say, "God, I would love to work with this actor at some point."

I would say recently, Andrew Garfield has become one of my favorite actors. After watching 'tick, tick ... Boom!" and "Spider-Man: No Way Home," knowing that he's a "Cobra Kai" fan is crazy. I would say he's definitely an actor I would love to work with in a very collaborative thing. I think in a comedy, Ryan Reynolds is the peak of who I'd want to work with in a comedy thing. Andrew Garfield's pretty new on my list, but I'm really liking his work now. So, I think he would be a pretty cool guy to work with.

Well, look with Andrew Garfield — I mean, since he's a fan of "Cobra Kai," come on, get him on the phone and say, "Come on, mate. We got to do a movie!"

I'll try. I'll call him up later today and see what happens!

Reacquainting himself with a Karate Kid villain

One thing I've loved about "Cobra Kai" over the entire series is how it really does tie up loose ends from the original films. And obviously with Season 4, we have Terry Silver. Knowing how important Thomas Ian Griffith's character was going to be to this season, did you re-watch "The Karate Kid: Part III" again with the intention of knowing his storyline is really pivotal to this year?

Yeah. I believe the summer before filming Season 4, I had re-watched just remind myself of the character. I think Season 3, I believe, did a good job of reminding us of who Terry Silver was with those flashback sequences. But yeah, I definitely re-watched "Part III" to get a better idea of who he is and what his motivations are, but he's great. He's such a good villain, man. He's so good.

Now speaking of villains, I see on your IMDb page and correct me if I'm wrong, but you're a part of the "Terrifier 2"? Is that correct?

Yeah. It happened so long... I'd seen that a while ago, pre-COVID ... I have a little part in that. I'm trying to remember back. It was so long ago. That was fun. I've never done horror stuff before, which I would actually really like to do more of.

"Cobra Kai" Season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.