Martin Kove (@MartinKove) is a prolific actor best known for his portrayal of the evil karate sensei, John Kreese, in The Karate Kid trilogy and Netflix’s Cobra Kai series. Be on the lookout as he hosts the upcoming Kicking It with the Koves podcast with his kids Jesse and Rachel.
What We Discuss with Martin Kove:
- How Martin nailed his audition for The Karate Kid by channeling his anger at not having ample time to prepare for it.
- Why we need more role models for leadership and personal responsibility in popular culture — in the western genre, if Martin had his way.
- How Martin finds common ground with the hard-to-love characters he sometimes portrays in order to make them relatable.
- Does playing villains for months on set ever rub off on Martin’s real-life behavior (and does this tend to work for or against him)?
- How does Martin look so young and stay in shape as a 74-year-old?
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Late for an appointment 12 stories up, you’re a blur to anyone waiting patiently in the lobby for appointments of their own. The elevator yawns open down the long hall, but you’re sure you can make it — in spite of frantic clicking from within as someone unseen smashes the “Door Close” button with the ferocity of an arcade hero about to secure high score on Missile Command. What they fail to know is you’ve faced foes far more formidable in your day. You dive between the narrow gap to confront the sheepish grin of a man who just shrugs as he matter-of-factly informs you that “Mercy is for the weak.”
If you’re having a day like this, you might be today’s guest, Martin Kove. As an actor who’s been featured in over 100 films, he’s best known for bringing the e̶v̶i̶l̶ misunderstood karate sensei, John Kreese, to life in The Karate Kid trilogy and Netflix’s Cobra Kai series — the kind of man who gives no quarter nor expects to receive it. This is a stark contrast to Martin himself, who’s actually quite kind, generous, and an outspoken anti-bullying advocate. On this episode, Martin joins us to discuss how he finds common ground with the hard-to-love characters he often portrays, why the world needs more westerns, how far he’s been willing to go to land a desired role, how he keeps landing work (and maintains his ability to do it) in his 70s, and much more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
This Episode Is Sponsored By:
- Peloton: Learn more at onepeloton.com
- Cuts Clothing: Get 15% off at cutsclothing.com/jordan
- HelloFresh: Get $80 off your first order at hellofresh.com/jhs80
- Away: Shop the entire lineup of travel essentials at awaytravel.com/jhs
- Huel: Get free shipping, a shaker, and a t-shirt with your first order at huel.com/jordan
Miss the show we did with Jonathan Haidt — the social psychologist who studies the American culture wars and is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of morality? Catch up with episode 90: Jonathan Haidt | The Danger of Good Intentions and Safe Spaces!
Thanks, Martin Kove!
If you enjoyed this session with Martin Kove, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Martin Kove To Launch ‘Cobra Kai’ Podcast | Deadline
- Cobra Kai | Netflix
- The Karate Kid | Prime Video
- The Karate Kid Part II | Prime Video
- The Karate Kid Part III | Prime Video
- Martin Kove: All Dancing with the Stars Performances | NBC
- Martin Kove | Website
- Martin Kove | Twitter
- Martin Kove | Facebook
- Martin Kove | Instagram
- Martin Kove | Cameo
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Martin Kove | TV Over Mind
- Danny Trejo | Inmate #1 | Jordan Harbinger
- Show History | The Ed Sullivan Show
- Styles of Okinawan Karate | Ageshio Japan
- Willie Adams Isshin-Ryu Karate | USA Dojo
- Gordon Doversola | USA Dojo
- Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn | Amazon
- Kendo | Wikipedia
- Chuck Norris | Twitter
- Toshiro Mifune | Wikipedia
- Jerry Weintraub | Wikipedia
- Pat Morita | Wikipedia
- Cagney & Lacey | Prime Video
- Caro Jones | Wikipedia
- John G. Avildsen | Wikipedia
- Vivienne Kove | IMDb
- Robert Mark Kamen | Wikipedia
- Eli Roth | Instagram
- Once Upon a Time in…HOLLYWOOD! DiCaprio! Tarantino! Kove! | A Word on Westerns
- Tombstone | Prime Video
- Jesse Kove | Twitter
- Price for Freedom | Prime Video
- The Mask Of Zorro | Prime Video
- The Anderson Tapes | Prime Video
- 12 Times Method Acting Destroyed Actors’ Lives | Ranker
- Casablanca | Prime Video
- How to Shoot a Fight Scene: Movement, Choreography | Ruustic
- First Blood | Prime Video
- All 27 James Bond Movies Ranked by Tomatometer | Rotten Tomatoes
- VFW | Prime Video
- The Next Karate Kid | Prime Video
- Cotton Club | Prime Video
- Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando’s Bizarre Western: ‘The Missouri Breaks’ | Wide Open Country
- Top of the World | Prime Video
- Steve McQueen | Wikipedia
- The Real Reason Dutch from The Karate Kid Isn’t In Cobra Kai | Looper
- Vintage Karate Kid Cobra Kai John Kreese Action Figure 1986 Remco WORKS | eBay
616: Martin Kove | Kicking It in the Cobra Kai Dojo
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Martin Kove: So this producer, my biggest fan says, "We want you to play this role just like you did in Karate Kid." And the little click happened here. I reached in, took out the 357, put it under his chin, and I said, "Don't ever tell an actor how to play a role." At the door, I turned around to these guys and I said, "Gentlemen, I hope we can do business." 10 minutes later, I got the call and I got the role I wanted. Try to do that now, you're going to prison.
[00:00:32] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional drug trafficker, money laundering experts, or neuroscientist. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:59] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a way to tell your friends about the show, we've got episode starter packs, and these are collections of top episodes, organized by topic. It'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started. And of course, I always appreciate it when you do that.
[00:01:19] Now today, not our typical episode, more of a celebrity profile in a way, not the usual fare for The Jordan Harbinger Show, but a fun conversation, especially if you grew up with The Karate Kid and you'd maybe watch Cobra Kai now, the number one show on Netflix. If you're new to the show, I would say try another episode of the show at first, just to get a feel for how we do around here. This is a fun one, but again, not our typical episode.
[00:01:41] Today's guest starred in The Karate Kid as Sensei, John Kreese. Of course, he's also reprising that role in Cobra Kai on Netflix. He's also been in Rambo and in over a hundred other movies, which has to be close to a record. I know Danny Trejo was on the show a couple of years ago now. Who knows? With the pandemic timing. But he's been in hundreds of movies, unbelievably, Martin Kove most recently was in Tarantino's 2019 film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. So he's basically the Darth Vader of karate, or at least the Darth Vader of The Karate Kid series and Cobra Kai. I thought this was an interesting and fun conversation. I hope you will agree.
[00:02:16] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these amazing folks for the show, it's always about my network. And I'm teaching you in our course how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The course is called Six-Minute Networking. It's about improving your networking and connections and inspiring others to develop a personal and professional relationship with you. It'll make you a better networker, a better connector, and a better thinker. That's all at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests you hear on the show subscribe and contribute to the course as well. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:02:48] Now, here we go with Martin Kove.
[00:02:52] The Cobra Kai is number one on Netflix. It's not even just number one in the United States and Canada. It's number one in like a hundred countries, or it has been at one point, number one in over a hundred countries. Is it that people are obsessed with nostalgia and the eighties? I mean, I can get behind that.
[00:03:07] Martin Kove: Well, it's a combination. I think there's a couple of reasons. And I go through this with walking in the supermarket and people telling me how much they love my character, how much they love the show. They always depict that this is a show that we all can watch together. We watched the movies and they would say, "I want my children to see the movies," but they wouldn't see the movies. Then they saw Cobra Kai and they came to me and said, "Let's watch the movies, dad." So they go back and watch the movies and they get a sense of John Kreese. They get a sense of Johnny Lawrence, of Daniel LaRusso. And it's a show that everybody can get around the TV, like the old days with Ed Sullivan and everyone can get something out of it, everyone. It doesn't matter if you're six, 16, or 46. There's something there because the writing is so good.
[00:03:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:55] Martin Kove: So identifiable that — it's the writers. Just like Kamen. Robert Kamen wrote Karate Kid I, II, and III. We're still saying wax on, wax off—
[00:04:04] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah.
[00:04:05] Martin Kove: —sweep the leg, no mercy. Those lines usually constitute a great story and script as the source.
[00:04:12] Jordan Harbinger: It's a comfort food in a way for trying times. You know, people want nostalgia now more than ever as well. And I think some of it is longing for better times, but I think some of it is — I'm 41. I love being able to experience that same feeling of watching The Karate Kid again, even though I'm 41. Like it doesn't get old. You think when you're older, you can enjoy things like that as much, but you definitely can, which I think is one of the sorts of cravings that the series serves.
[00:04:38] I know you studied Okinawan karate. I did when I was a teenager, I studied under Master Willie Adams out of Detroit. I don't know if that rings any bells for you if you know who that was.
[00:04:47] Martin Kove: I studied over here with Gordon Doversola. He was out of LA.
[00:04:51] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, okay.
[00:04:52] Martin Kove: Because there's a couple of good teachers across the states that teach Okinawa-Te.
[00:04:56] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. This was Isshin-Ryu. This is sort of different, I suppose, or similar branches.
[00:05:01] A lot of people probably don't realize that you practice martial arts in real life. You know, I think a lot of folks, actors, they just learn a few moves or the stuntmen do most of the heavy lifting and the actor has to be trained how to even just make a fist or something like that for several months before. I'm wondering when you started that. Because I know you grew up in Brooklyn, you're a Jewish kid in Brooklyn, you probably needed karate in the '60s and '70s.
[00:05:25] Martin Kove: That's very funny. Yeah, we got into a lot of fistfights. Back in Brooklyn, we used to play tackle. We used to play to and touch on the streets in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, but we tackled, we never touched. We always tackled because we were just, I guess, tough. But it was actually a movie called the Lion of Ireland, which was the story of Brian Boru, the first king of Ireland who unified all the tribes of Ireland against the Vikings who were raiding the coast. We were working in the dojo, working on a lot of Kendo, but the foundation was karate and you needed to learn karate. I really didn't earlier. This is 1982. A month later, I was in Karate Kid. And I had that foundation of karate and I knew Kendo because we were working with plywood axes that were four or five feet tall. We're learning how to work them within the confines of the style. At that time. it was a Taekwondo, but it was never a prerequisite to do those movies, to be a martial artist.
[00:06:30] You know, they entertained Chuck Norris as maybe being John Kreese at the time and Toshiro Mifune, you know, being Miyagi, but it was really Jerry Weintraub who originally nixed Pat Morita. And then John Avildsen went out and made a little tape of Pat Morita and brought it in and said, "This is the guy, Jerry." And that's how they got Pat. They got me because I was hostile in my audition and I was doing Cagney & Lacey.
[00:06:56] Jordan Harbinger: What do you mean you're hostile in your audition?
[00:06:58] Martin Kove: Well, it's just a funny story. I go in, I get a call. I go into the casting woman. She says, "Here's the script, Martin." Nice lady. Her name is Caro Jones. And she says, "We'll call you in on Friday to meet the director, John Avildsen. I get a call the next morning at nine o'clock. It's now or never. He wants to see you at noon. I say, "Caro, I haven't worked on the script." And she says, "Oh, it's now or never." So my wife says to me at the time, and it was Vivian. She says, "Why don't you use the anger as the venom that you feel right now when you do the scene." And the scene was when I'm walking up and down the aisle in the dojo. "Mercy is for the weak, here and on the streets," you know, I'm barking these lines. And I said, "Okay, that sounds good."
[00:07:40] I was doing Cagney & Lacey on hiatus. I had nothing to lose. If they didn't like me, or they were insulted with what I was going to do, so be it. So I go there and I get ready to go. And I say, "John, you're a real assh*le, John." I said, "John Avildsen, we wait for years to meet directors of your caliber and you're giving me no time to prep. You're an ass. And so are you, Caro Jones." Boom, go right into, "Mercy is for the weak," with all that venom. He loves it. He was secure enough to love it. I did the same thing to Jerry Weintraub. He loved it and it worked.
[00:08:12] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So you got the part by being John Kreese in the audition, but without knowing who John Kreese was because you hadn't looked at the script or you barely looked at the script.
[00:08:21] Martin Kove: I barely looked at the script, but the script was one-dimensional heavy.
[00:08:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:24] Martin Kove: We didn't even like the title. It was like a Bruce Lee movie, The Karate Kid. So we had no idea it was going to be as successful as it was. It was a good story, lovely script. I often have this conversation with Robert Kamen and I say, "The stars of the movie are you and your words." He says, "No, it's the charisma between Miyagi and Ralph." And we have this ongoing debate. And I believe as we've talked about before the Western, the Western needs a great script to return as the genre we had once had years ago. It's overexposed. You don't get the material because from 1920 to 1967, one of every three movies coming out of Hollywood was a Western. So it's a highly overexposed genre. So you've got to work really hard to get a karate kid in the Western genre. And that's what we need. That's what we've got to find. That's what I've been looking for. And we'll find it, we'll get it. And we'll return those heroes, the moral fiber of those Western heroes, we'll bring them in, you know, to a society right now that needs heroes so badly.
[00:09:34] Jordan Harbinger: I couldn't agree more with that. I definitely agree there. I think right now we see a lot of role models. They say things like, "Well, I never asked to be a role model." Well, you don't really have a choice if you're in the spotlight and what are you going to do? Just abdicate moral responsibility, because you don't want it. Like when did we learn that that was okay? I don't understand that. Maybe this is the boy scout in me, but like, you don't really have a choice, but to lead when people are looking to you, you don't get to not do it.
[00:10:01] Martin Kove: You're absolutely right. You can't teach that you have got to instinctively have to do it. I was talking to my lady friend about being a soldier and being a good businesswoman. And being a soldier of business, not a soldier of filmmaking or sensitivity in the arts, but a soldier in business and people, our soldiers, our authorities are good at what they do. Not everybody can do both, but if you are a leader and you're in that position, and people will follow you and you have moral fiber and you have integrity.
[00:10:35] I think about it a lot with John Kreese. He's tough. Do you give awards to kids who are in second, third, and fourth place, or do you only give awards to winners? Despite how hard those other kids try. Their forte, they may be soldiers of the computer, soldiers of art, soldiers of music. They may not be the athletes of the guy who wins first place. John Kreese only thinks first place is the only one that's important.
[00:11:03] I'm in that dilemma as an actor, myself. If I coach baseball, where I give those participation trophies, is it inappropriate? They're looking at me like a leader. I'm the coach. And it gets more and more with greater responsibilities. It's more than just a trophy.
[00:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I haven't quite figured that out as a father yet either. Like you want to encourage effort, but you don't want to make it the same thing as results. It was interesting before you said you didn't think The Karate Kid would be anything special. You didn't like the title. Was there another reason? And when did you find out like, "Okay, wait a minute, I changed my mind, this is amazing"? Was it after you saw ticket sales or did you just see like a final cut and go, "I get it now"?
[00:11:41] Martin Kove: It disappeared. I went right into Cagney & Lacey on the third season, I think. It just kind of disappeared. They're re-editing and John Avildsen edits everything in his head. So, you know, I saw some of the footage and I liked it and I used it as an acting real for myself. I was working in Eugene, Oregon, and then like my wife at the time went with my son to see the movie. And I said, "How was I?" She says, "Oh, the movie was great." And I said, "Well, how was I?" And she said, "Well, you're okay." You know? So then I immediately thought, "Oh boy, I mean, God, what did I do?" And eventually, within a week or two, I saw the movie and I saw it was a very good film. But I remember when I did Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I was at the theater at the premiere and I got the wrong seats and I have the opening scene in the movie and I got up to get through the right seats that someone had given, my girlfriend and I, the wrong seat, and I missed the scene, right?
[00:12:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's terrible.
[00:12:42] Martin Kove: And so I watched the whole movie and I said, "God, I guess he cut me out." You know, Quentin cuts people out, you know, frequently. It's okay. And I love making the movie with him. Then all of a sudden out there in the lobby, Eli Roth comes up to me and says, "Hey man, you were great. We didn't see enough of you. Wish there was more, but you were terrific." And my publicist comes up and says, "Yeah, your voice really resonates on the screen in this Western scenario with DiCaprio." I said, "You saw me?" He says, "Yeah." So I realized I was in the movie. So strange things happen all the time at premieres. And you never really know until you sit there and analyze it.
[00:13:21] My son just got apart as Wyatt Earp in a prequel.
[00:13:24] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. That's cool. That's a cool part.
[00:13:26] Martin Kove: Prequel to Tombstone. And it's great. It's when Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp first meet in Dodge City. And it's written beautifully. It's the moments now in my life that matter. The moments and giving back to get that genre going again, so kids can experience the pleasure I experienced in the '60s when there were 35 Westerns on prime time television. 35, I just would like to create a project like that. Be the actor on time magazine, the actor who rejuvenated the Western, and then I could die.
[00:14:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, you got your work cut out for you, but I think it would be a welcome reprise of that particular genre.
[00:14:06] How was playing a villain different than playing other characters in a film or series or is acting just acting regardless of the role?
[00:14:14] Martin Kove: Years ago, I was lazy and I didn't do backstories. I didn't create relationships. Unwritten relationships are not in the script. And now I do it feverously. And with John Kreese, I have pages of what his life was like with his parents, what it was like with his girlfriend, what it was like in Vietnam.
[00:14:35] And there are times when you play a character that you don't like that you say, "I have nothing in common with." There was a movie called Price for Freedom, and I played the Ayatollah Khomeini, his right-hand man.
[00:14:49] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:14:49] Martin Kove: If you wore a red shirt, you were condemned because he was sympathetic to the west. And I said, "What do I have in common with this guy?" And I had nothing in common with him, but what you have to do is make him feel that he is serving his people. He is a hero to his people. He is doing the right thing for his following, the population there in that world, whatever the world is. If it's Genghis Khan, it's Genghis Khan and his people. So in that case, I felt that I was a hero to my people. I psyched myself into that, but this guy was a monster. He was a monster that you and I would have nothing in common with and no sensitivity whatsoever. But you had to fulfill your responsibilities as an actor. I put a pair of glasses on, had a full beard with a turban, best thing in the movie.
[00:15:41] Jordan Harbinger: When you say you have pages about John Kreese's relationships and backstories, are you just sitting down and sort of thinking about it and writing this out? Like, all right, his girlfriend, she's a mess and his relationship with his dad was terrible. He was bullied. And his dad, instead of being sympathetic, just told him he was weak and was distant. Like, do you write all these things down on paper essentially.
[00:16:02] Martin Kove: Well, I don't get that specific. You know, what kind of relationship he had with his mother and his father, with the captain? Things that are really pertinent and you can't really write every day of his life on there, the pertinent moments that create a character that would make a character — like Zorro, for instance.
[00:16:22] I remember when Anthony Hopkins is teaching Antonio Bandaras and Antonio Banderas says, "I know how to do this. I can fight." Anthony Hopkins zeroed in on telling them what the essence is to be Zorro. The essence is that this is what you've got to maintain. This is what you've got to overcome. And there were subtleties, just subtleties. You know how to be a gentleman, how to be charming. It wasn't about sword fighting. It wasn't about how well he ride Tornado, his horse. It was about the subtleties of being Don Diego De la Vega. It was great. I love that scene. It was about how you have to take your character and find the most important points.
[00:17:03] Because a lot of times the narration, the narrative in the script is about action and what happens to the character, but it doesn't say why he's operating the way he does. And you've got to find that yourself, you've got to do that. And sometimes it's just a page or two of notes. Sometimes it's going back and looking at those movies again and seeing that John Kreese wasn't turned on by his kids winning in Karate Kid I. And he wasn't turned on by them. He preferred them to win, but he was always masked. He was always a guy who wanted his kids to win, but if they didn't win, he was upset. If they did win, he wasn't ecstatic.
[00:17:46] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:17:47] Martin Kove: It was just a level of, I guess, almost he's preserving what he finds important, which is to be triumphant. But there was never an emotional reaction one way or the other. And that tells you a lot about the character. There's something missing in his soul that needs to be brought out and you can bring it out. This is not written. You have to bring it out and you have fun. I think rehearsal and development of a character is often more fun, than the actual acting on a set.
[00:18:19] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Martin Kove. We'll be right back.
[00:18:24] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. Adding new things to my workout routine keeps it fresh, keeps me motivated. The Peloton Bike and Bike Plus are ringing in the New Year with so much new. New classes, new music to jam to, and new ways to keep your workouts fun. Like boxing, Peloton is stepping into the ring. No gloves are needed. Even if you've never boxed before, these classes will have you working up a sweat while working on the fundamentals of form, footwork, and fun combos, that will keep you on your toes. I love boxing, I think is a lot of fun. I mean, they're getting hit part not so much, but they don't have that. You don't have to worry about that with Peloton. You can also discover new music through Peloton. They've got pop and rock, hip-hop, EDM. Find your favorite music. Turn your next workout into a little jam sesh. It's easier to stick to your goals as well when you keep your workouts interesting. So de-stress from a long day, with 30 minutes of strength, 20 minutes of cardio, or just do a 15-minute total body class before work. Keep your fitness fresh with bike workouts, yoga, meditation, dance, cardio, and more.
[00:19:17] Jen Harbinger: For a limited time, try the Peloton app free for two months, then $12.99 a month after, new members only. Visit onepeloton.com/app to learn more. That's two free months free at O-N-E-P-E-L-O-T-O-N.com. Offer expires January 31st, 2022. Terms apply.
[00:19:34] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Cuts Clothing. Work attire, it's not what it used to be. We're not all expected to wear uncomfortable suits and ties for work. I think we're all pretty happy about that, but what are we supposed to wear instead? That's the problem Steven Borelli set out to solve when he started a company called Cuts. In 2016, Steven set out to create clothes ready for every occasion the modern man faces. He started by reinventing the t-shirt, which GQ Magazine has called the only shirt worth wearing. I also highly recommend Cuts' signature buttery, soft custom-engineered PYCA Pro tri-blend tee. It's quite a mouthful. It feels great on the skin. I can wear it being on camera or even just working out in the garage, although I kind of don't want to ruin it. So I just wear it on camera. Cuts also has amazing polos, bomber jackets, joggers, and more. I've also gifted Cuts Clothing to my cousin and my brother-in-law.
[00:20:17] Jen Harbinger: Cuts Clothing is a work leisure apparel for the sport of business. Get 15 percent off your first order by going to cutsclothing.com/jordan. That's C-U-T-S-clothing.com/jordan for 15 percent off. The only shirt worth wearing.
[00:20:31] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much for listening to the show. I love creating it for you. I love the fact that you love to listen to it and learn from it. All those discount codes, all those sponsor codes, they can be hard to remember, so we put them all in one place. jordanharbinger.com/deals is where you can find them. Please do consider supporting those who make this show possible.
[00:20:49] Now back to Martin Kove.
[00:20:52] How do you go about learning the attributes of people that you aren't necessarily like, but maybe they have skills or attributes you can use to your advantage? How do you absorb character traits of somebody you admire or need to become more like, whether it's in acting or real life?
[00:21:08] Martin Kove: Well, I remember working with Sean Connery, one of my first jobs. I was his standing in a movie called The Anderson Tapes. I was doing plays in New York and Lincoln Center and all that. It was 1972 and the most exciting thing I ever remember happening to me was watching him act and listen. He was so interesting to watch when he was listening. It was just amazing, truly amazing.
[00:21:34] There are certain things that you have to operate instinctively with. The material, a lot of times it doesn't explain enough information for you, the actor. And the director looks at you like — you know, John Avildsen used to say, "I didn't hire you to direct you. I hired you because you know what you're doing. And I expect you to be able to do it." He used to say that all the time. Every actor wants to go to a director and be nurtured, but a lot of directors don't do that. You know?
[00:22:05] So when that situation does happen, you're left to your instincts. To answer your question, your instincts, with all the information from the backstories and all the stuff you've created in between the lines, you throw it away and you just operate on instinct with the material at hand. And I believe that's the only way to do it. It's the only way to do it. Because most of the time you do make definitive decisions before the camera rolls before that day is beginning. Back in your house, during rehearsal, you've made the decision of what to do. But if it gets that complicated, then you just have to throw it all away and operate instinctively.
[00:22:47] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. I wonder how much shared reality do you have with John Kreese? You know, does Sensei Kreese come out when you get angry, for example?
[00:22:56] Martin Kove: Great question, man. I have lost a relationship because last year I did six months of John Kreese, six months of this guy. And he doesn't leave. He doesn't go away. Billy and I talk about this all the time. Billy works more days on the show. So he's more in Johnny Lawrence than I am in John Kreese, but it's not a matter of insanity. Like people would say like, what happened to Heath Ledger or what happens to, you know, Daniel Day-Lewis on Lincoln, he just stays in the character. He doesn't really talk to anybody else. A lot of actors do that, but the character of John Kreese, he's got high moral fiber, extremely high moral fiber. He's not really sensitive, but his, a lot of emotional texture to the character. And it's unfortunate that what he believes to be right is the only way to go. And that gets in the way of being in a sense, sensitive and romantic and fun, loving like Martin Kove, that stuff stays inside where you become restricted. Because it's just a character that you're entertaining for months and months and months. You know, if there's no pill you can take, there's no medication. It's just the nature of the business. If he gets so far into your character, you have to take a departure from it for a couple of months and take a vacation and try to have a relationship without John Kreese dropping in.
[00:24:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, I can see John Kreese coming in handy when you're on the phone with the cable company or the credit card company, or, you know, something is slowly not working for you. Maybe even when parenting occasionally, just occasionally, right? But yeah, probably not ideal when you're trying to have date night with the wife for the first time in a month and a half, because you've been shooting and no mercy strike hard doesn't necessarily work well with those ladies, right? Not much of the time, anyway.
[00:24:57] Martin Kove: It doesn't at all. And then if they hear you having a conversation with someone who's violated you or been irresponsible in their service to you, and you're giving them the John Kreese routine, which just comes up, you know, I'm very sensitive. I mean, I cried supermarket openings, you know what I mean? I'm that kind of guy and my favorite movie is Casablanca, but I returned to that darkness frequently and it's unconscious. Then you have to make a deliberate effort to neutralize yourself. It's tough. It's really tough. People who don't experience it, kind of say, "Oh yeah, you don't go into that." Come on. You can try it. Try six months of portraying a character. You don't necessarily go home and have dinner as John Kreese, but it's always in your instrument. It's always there when you pick up a script. You're right back in.
[00:25:52] Jordan Harbinger: I guess. Conversely, how often do people think you're acting when you're actually just really angry and annoyed?
[00:25:59] Martin Kove: Good question. I can have a resonant voice after dealing with the landscaper or the plumber or the doctor that didn't do what he was supposed to do. I can have a resonant, loud voice and my girlfriend will immediately think I'm extremely angry just by the resonance in my voice. Not because I would not show her the anger that I have for these of the characters. I divorced myself from it and I come inside. And just because my voice is up there in intensity, she thinks I'm angry at her or angry period. And I'm really not. It's just the residue. It's the residual effect of being John Kreese in dealing with those outside endeavors, you know?
[00:26:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's just under the skin, poking through a little bit.
[00:26:49] Martin Kove: Yeah.
[00:26:49] Jordan Harbinger: It's interesting. I have to say seemingly you're in pretty damn good shape for — are you 75 years old?
[00:26:56] Martin Kove: 74.
[00:26:57] Jordan Harbinger: 74, okay, well, almost.
[00:26:59] Martin Kove: I am, DB has it wrong by a year.
[00:27:01] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:27:02] Martin Kove: I've tried to change it many times. It doesn't seem to work.
[00:27:05] Jordan Harbinger: They won't let you. Yeah. How would you know how old you are? We have to verify this. Yeah, you're in pretty darn good shape for 74. I assume you have a trainer, especially if you're working on Cobra Kai, they probably want you to be limber and in good enough shape, for insurance purposes, if no other reason.
[00:27:21] Martin Kove: Well, you know, last year, season four, I was lucky they didn't write many action sequences. Season five, they did. Season five is in the can too. Season four was just terrific, but it was a lot of acting, a lot of exciting elements for John Kreese, which I really — the writers are terrific. We all signed on because we were persuaded on how good and how perceptive they were going to be with the characters. They weren't going to write John Kreese one dimensional. They weren't going to play him white hats and black hats. And I wanted as much vulnerability and texture and color as I could. And I said that's the only reason I'm signing on because I want to see this character develop. Is that how you see it? And they did Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald and Jon Hurwitz. They all see it the same way. They direct, they edit, they write. They do everything. There's no ego, which is so great for the show. We don't have a primadonna and we all just love the game.
[00:28:21] Jordan Harbinger: That's got to make it a hell of a lot easier and more fun to shoot. I'm looking at some of these fights that you're doing. A lot of people said, "Oh, ask him what stuff is him and what stuff is a stuntman," which is going to be impossible to explain, but I assume you're doing a lot of the stuff that looks like standup fighting, but you're not going through like a window or anything like that, right?
[00:28:41] Martin Kove: No, that scene in the window was a great fight. That was a terrific fight.
[00:28:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:46] Martin Kove: Like if Billy or if Ralph goes through the window. No, I didn't go through the window, but I did most of the other stuff in the dojo and fought Billy, and most of it is me. There's a couple of places they choose to have the stuntman, but I have a stuntman. Ken is brilliant and he runs the show and he's my stuntman plus he's the coordinator. And I think the show was nominated for a stunt work for an Emmy two years in a row.
[00:29:11] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That doesn't surprise me at all.
[00:29:13] Martin Kove: But you know, we all like it and we all want to be on camera to show that we're really doing it. And we have a thing about that. All three, Ralph, Billy, and I, and where we can be ourselves. Be the actor doing it, we will that scene, especially, it was a great fight scene, go through the window and all that. And then we ended up outside the window playing the scene. The stunt guys would go through the window, but we were standing in the broken glass. You know?
[00:29:39] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:39] Martin Kove: Just bare feet and broken glass at two o'clock in the morning, but it was so rich. It was so good. It was the end of the season.
[00:29:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:29:49] Martin Kove: It was great. And then the next day he's calling Terry Silver and setting up season four.
[00:29:54] Jordan Harbinger: That's brilliant. How long does it take to prep those fights that we see in Cobra Kai? I assume months of work. It's not easy to do that. You can't sort of improv that kind of thing.
[00:30:05] Martin Kove: I tell you, it all depends on how complicated those fights that happened at the end of season four. Those kids didn't get a lot of time with those fights yet when Billy and I had our fight at the very beginning. If you remember, I think episode 10, season one, when I appeared. And then it continues to episode one, season two, when we have a fight and the fire starts. And when we have that fight ourselves, we had time to go through all of season two and we shot that fight, which is basically episode one, season two, we shot it at the 10th episode at that time, three months later, because we were able to practice for all those three months. Even though that fight was airing as the first episode of season two, we were wanted to practice and get it right and it was a great fight. Sometimes you don't have that luxury. These kids do a great job of fighting. They really do. They get sometimes two and three days. Ralph and Billy, and that fight that they had, not very much time at all. It all depends on how rich the episode is. And the episode claims the actors. So the actors can't go and rehearse. They have to go and act. It switches around.
[00:31:18] Jordan Harbinger: Does Hollywood try to pigeonhole you into a type of role. And then that's something you have to resist. Like, do you find yourself in say like the early '90s or the mid-'90s only getting roles to be like a villain or a heavy, and if so, how do you break out of that so that you don't end up typecast?
[00:31:35] Martin Kove: It's hard. You know, Hollywood, there's a large group of sheep that basically base success on the previous success. It's a lot of money at stake and that's what they do. You're pigeonholed very easily because of the successful things. When I did Rambo and I did Rambo right after Karate Kid I, and both, those were hundred-million-dollar grosser and even more. And then Karate Kid II was a big one and then Karate Kid III. So all of that, you're playing a bad guy and it's tough. And they think that's what you can do because you just into commercial successes that are making. And that's all you can do.
[00:32:13] So you've got to find another vehicle and sell it. And it's tough because everybody says — I've got some terrible stories times where I wanted something more vulnerable and I pulled a gun at an interview. I would never do it now because I'd be shot.
[00:32:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:29] Martin Kove: But back in the '80s, it was a movie that they wanted me to do this rapist in Fiji, Finland, and New Zealand. And my wife was from New Zealand. So I thought, "Oh, it'd be great to do this movie." And they thought I wasn't unpredictable then. So I said, "Get me another interview with these people." And I took a .357 Magnum prop gun, put it in my portfolio and I didn't know what I was going to pull it, but I wanted to show that I was unpredictable enough and I can get the role that I really wanted.
[00:32:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:59] Martin Kove: So this producer, my biggest fan says, "We want you to play this role," this rapist, I didn't mind, but he says, "We want you to play this role just like you did in Karate Kid." And the little click happened here. I reached in, took out the .357, put it under his chin. And I said, "Don't ever tell an actor how to play a role." Put the gun down, put it back in my case, left. At the door, I turned around to these guys and I said, "Gentleman, I hope we can do business." 10 minutes later, I got the call and I got the role I wanted. Try to do that now—
[00:33:34] Jordan Harbinger: You're going to prison.
[00:33:35] Martin Kove: You're going to prison. Exactly, right. And they never made the movie anyway. And I was doing Cagney & Lacey. So it all worked out, but it was a great lesson at the time.
[00:33:43] Jordan Harbinger: Never made the movie anyway is like the motto of Hollywood. Maybe more than 80 percent of Hollywood projects never see daylight, pretty much everything you do or audition for, that's it. You're never going to see or hear about it again, pretty much.
[00:33:57] Martin Kove: Well, no, it's not a standard, but there's a lot of projects that financing falls out. People in a leisure position who were independently financing change their minds. It all varies. You know the studio system is always good, film stars like the studio system, because you know there's money there. And, you know, they know the business and then not five dentists getting together a million dollars, not knowing anything about the movie business. And they're wondering why Michelle Pfeiffer's in there. She's perfect. But why do you want Michelle Pfeiffer? Let's get a red head. You know, they haven't got a clue. A lot of times deals fall through because people are not part of the movie business. It's a complicated business. And now it's even more complicated with so many platforms and thank God the Bond movie recreated the theater again because that was the first movie that really made some money in the theaters.
[00:34:54] It will never change the TV world, seeing the guy that you bring into your living room, like Magnum or whoever as your friend on that small screen will never take the place of that big screen, the mystique of Jack Nicholson, the mystique of Sean Connery, the mystique of Peter O'Toole. Those are big experiences. If you're lucky enough to get a movie, make some noise in the theaters, you've done something right. It's harder now. It's definitely harder.
[00:35:24] Jordan Harbinger: For sure, it's harder now. Yeah. I'm wondering if there was ever a time in the '80s or '90s that you thought, "All right, The Karate Kid was a huge hit. What if I don't get anything else that's this big ever again?" Like that would scare me. I'd be in my head. I'm not from Brooklyn, but I have some of that Jewish anxiety. Like, "Oh, this is it. I've peaked. There's no more for me." How do you handle that? Or did that not happen to you at all?
[00:35:46] Martin Kove: I've always thought if they don't hire me, it's their mistake. I've always felt that way. Sometimes the instrument was really attuned and I was good. And sometimes I'm in addition, I wasn't good. I just didn't connect with the words. I always felt that I had something. When I was very young, I always felt that I had something different. I was a tough kid, but I was sensitive. I could cry at the drop of a hat always, and yet I could be tackled at the age of 11 on concrete and still get up and play the next play.
[00:36:21] So I felt I always had something to offer the business, a tough guy who was that sensitive. I didn't see it in the movies when I was growing up. I didn't see enough of the vulnerability and a lot of the heroes, and I figured I have something to offer to show business. I'm just going to go for it. And I discovered that I guess what I was about 10 or 12 and I just kept going. Tenacity was a big thing. Laziness prevails too. When you get lazy as a young actor, you don't want to do the backstories and the things that later on you find to make the difference in an A performance or a C performance.
[00:36:57] It's really a matter of believing in yourself. That's just what it is. And you go up and down, we go up and down. How many times do we hear, "Oh God, you know, I should have done something else with my life, oh my God, did I make the right decision?" And you just go through it and you figure out the best point of those reservations and make it worth your while.
[00:37:19] And there were so many movies that I have not wanted to do. This one movie, it was so violent. VFW, VFW was Veterans of Foreign Wars, and it was a violent picture. Who is in it? William Sadler, Stephen Lang, Fred Williamson, two or three other people that were just wonderful actresses. All of us together made the camaraderie of guys who knew each other in Vietnam. And from a movie that was so bloody and violent, it turned out to be the rage was our camaraderie made the movie sensational. I never saw that. Reading a script, I never saw that. I got talked into it by my manager and my son, but I didn't see all that camaraderie in the process.
[00:38:05] So a lot of times you'll take a piece you're blind to the value of it and then you're surprised when it all works out, as you think something is fantastic and it goes nowhere. So it gets up and down, you know?
[00:38:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That applies to pretty much any career, right? Like there's a lot of people that write into this show for advice, and they'll say, "Should I take this job? It's what I really want to do, but it's a pay cut and it's going to take me like three or four years to get back up to where I am now. I'm taking a big step back. Should I do this?" And the answer is usually yes because then you're in the industry that you want and you can make up the money later. Unless, of course, they're grossly underpaying you. And that's a different story. But a lot of times we do have to sort of get closer to what we want. And then, later on, we find out that it works out. Or we get exactly what we want and then it turns out to be a complete and utter disaster. But to judge things, in the beginning, is almost a mistake.
[00:38:56] Martin Kove: Yeah. It's like a business investment.
[00:38:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:59] Martin Kove: You have to really do some homework. The homework has to be done. My son's going to do this Wyatt Earp, a great script, written by the people that wrote Tombstone. But they don't have enough money and I want to help them, but it's a big job to help raise more money for a great script because your son has the lead. It's a big deal. And I thought about it this morning. I didn't think I'd get involved, but I have to weigh how much work this project would take of mine when I'm really want to just kick back in Nashville. How much work would take for my son, for me to make this picture, raise some more money for them, give it to Netflix, whatever, and make it happen? I don't know. The opening stages are rough, but maybe in a couple of weeks, I reexamined this whole movie, it might be worthwhile. It's like an investment. You just have to cover all the bases.
[00:39:57] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Martin Kove. We'll be right back.
[00:40:02] This episode is sponsored in part by HelloFresh. With a two-year-old toddler and a four-week-old baby, our schedule, if you can even call it that these days, has been all out of whack. We're tired of eating delivery. We're also getting fat yet. We don't know what to cook. So we're super excited to try HelloFresh, America's number one meal kit. Farm-fresh, pre-portioned ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. It'll save you many trips to the grocery store. HelloFresh has meals ready in 30 minutes or less plus quick and easy meals, including 20-minute recipes, low prep, easy cleanup options. So you have time for the important things in life, like changing diapers nonstop. HelloFresh offers 50 menu and market items to choose from every week, including veggie, calorie smart, family-friendly gourmet options. They provide plenty of variety. Recipes like hibachi sweet soy bavette steak and shrimp, basically, restaurant-quality meals right in your kitchen, while their white cheddar wonderburgers make it easier than ever to skip the takeout.
[00:40:53] Jen Harbinger: Go to hellofresh.com/J-H-S-16. And use code J-H-S-16 for up to 16 free meals and three free gifts. That's hellofresh.com/JHS16, promo code JHS16. America's number one meal kit.
[00:41:09] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Away. I travel a couple of dozen times — well, I used to travel a lot. I value a great suitcase. One that's crafted with features that make travel more seamless. Like the suitcase has made by Away. It's got four, 360 degrees spinner wheels that guarantee the smoothest roll, even though the most hectic of airports and stations. And of course, a TSA-approved combo-lock to help keep all your belongings safe. I love that it's integrated right in there. Nothing to lose. Looking forward to heading to Taiwan, maybe Greece, Portugal, a few other destinations I've been dreaming about with my spiffy new Away luggage until my previous suitcase lasted six years. And all of Away's suitcases are designed to last a lifetime. Even more incredible, they encourage you to take the product out on the road. There's a 100-day trial. If you decide it's not for you, return any non-personalized item for a full refund, no ifs, ands, or asterisks. Free shipping and returns on any order within the contiguous US, UK, Europe, and Canada.
[00:42:03] Jen Harbinger: Start your 100-day trial and shop the entire Away lineup of travel essentials, including their best-selling suitcases at awaytravel.com/J-H-S. That's awaytravel.com/JHS.
[00:42:15] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by Huel. As soon as I wake up, I'm on the go. Next thing I know it's lunchtime. I've got a meeting after that, but I'm freaking hangry. That's why I have Huel, human fuel, which provides all the carbs, protein, fats, fiber, and 27 essential vitamins and minerals you need. Everything is plant-based, which I like. Huel is a great shortcut for busy folks who don't have time to load their plate up with egg whites and vegetables and whatever else for a nutritious meal a bunch of times a day. Huel powder comes in all the classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, salted caramel, and more. Just mix it with water in the free shaker you get with your first order. And you're good to go. It only takes a minute. It tastes great. It helps keep me full and satisfied. So I'm not grabbing gross snacks in between meals all the time.
[00:42:55] Jen Harbinger: Huel has proved that fast food can be good food. We love it and you will too. And right now you can get free shipping on your first order plus a shaker and a free t-shirt. Go to huel.com/jordan. That's H-U-E-L.com/jordan to get free shipping on your first order plus a shaker and t-shirt, huel.com/jordan.
[00:43:13] Jordan Harbinger: By the way, you can now rate the show if you're listening on Spotify. This is sort of new. It's a huge help. It makes the show more visible on Spotify. Just go to jordanharbinger.com/spotify or search for us in your Spotify app. Click the dots on the right to make it happen.
[00:43:27] Now for the rest of my conversation with Martin Kove.
[00:43:31] You mentioned earlier Karate Kid I, Karate Kid II, Karate Kid III. I mean, I assume you know that there are four Karate Kid movies. So why does nobody talk about that one? What's going on? Do you think they melt it too long? What happened there?
[00:43:43] Martin Kove: Yeah, nobody talks about that. I never liked to throw any movie under the bus.
[00:43:48] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:43:49] Martin Kove: But it didn't work. The greatest proof was when Columbia came out with a four-disc set Karate Kid I, II, III, and IV, the next karate kid, I think, it was called. And I got a dozen of these sets that I gave to people. And then within two months, all of them were pulled off the shelves at blockbuster and all those stores at the time. Columbia reissued a three bucks set. So it's just the way the cookie crumbles. I mean, the work is good and she might guest to our Cobra Kai. Who knows? So many great projects go by the wayside.
[00:44:29] Things like Cotton Club, everybody thought it was a good movie. And then, you know, there are so many bombs that happened. You lined them up with stars, you line them up with great writers, whether the TV shows or movies. And so many of these movies tank, and you think that Authur Penn directed Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando in a Western, and you figured, "Oh, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Arthur Penn." Other primes he directed Little Big Man, Bonnie and Clyde, he did some great stuff, tanked. Individually, the performances were great, but nobody had anything to do with anybody else, you know? And it was like I've made movies where we all — it was one movie called, it was directed by Sidney Lumet, and Sidney Lumet is a wonderful director. And we had Peter Weller. We had Joe Pantoliano. We had just a slew of people, Dennis Hopper, but everybody was rewriting their part all the time and showing it to Sidney. And Sidney says, "Oh, that's great. I like it. You can improvise that." And everybody was in another movie. So when the picture came out, it was very strange. It didn't go anywhere. I think it was called Top of the World. It was a Vegas heist movie. Everybody was doing great work, but all their scenes had so little to do with anybody else.
[00:45:50] Jordan Harbinger: Cobra Kai, I don't know if this is the right word, it's more intellectual, I guess, than Karate Kid. I use the term very loosely, right? Because the characters in Cobra Kai, they're all shades of gray. They're both good and bad versus just bad wearing a skeleton costume beating up the main character, right? John Kreese has a backstory. Johnny Lawrence is trying to do right, but he's just kind of a screw-up who threw a lot of his life away. Whereas in The Karate Kid, he's just a bully. There's no like he's got a good side, right? He's just a jerk. John Kreese in Karate Kid movies, 99 percent is just bad. There's not like any redeeming thing. You can't really relate to him at all if you're a normal person. But in Cobra Kai, it's totally different. You kind of have sympathy for, well, he's a hard sensei because he was bullied and then he had his trauma in the war. Like, you know, it's just a different kind of role that is more nuanced probably because audiences are more sophisticated. So I guess the question is, is that a more fun role? Is that a more interesting role? Because—
[00:46:47] Martin Kove: Sure.
[00:46:48] Jordan Harbinger: —it's more three-dimensional.
[00:46:49] Martin Kove: Unquestionably, for those reasons. That it's more three-dimensional. I certainly met with them and said to the writers, I would like, as I said before, I would like texture and the character and colors. I don't want a one-dimensional, tough guy. That was their plan. I had three pages of notes for season two that I wanted to exercise flashbacks, Vietnam, and all that, reasons why John Kreese was like he was. They already had that. They already had it in their palette in their mind. And they already painted the colors of John Kreese. And I was amazed. All my notes, meeting with mercenaries, meeting with soldiers of fortune, meaning with army rangers didn't mean a thing. They were already there. They already put that down on paper for the next season.
[00:47:36] Yes, it is much more fun to play as an actor. And especially when you're coming from a hard-ass character, like John Kreese. You go to those texturized places with lots of colors. For me, it's heaven. You know, I was trying to be Steve McQueen when I got to this town. Everything was posturing like Steve McQueen. And then I worked all the time because, you know, as a tough guy and I had a good face and all, but I wasn't really touchy with Martin Kove is about, I was trying to be Steve McQueen with the twinkle in my eye.
[00:48:06] You don't get to be Steve McQueen with a twinkle unless you do the work. You do the work, do the backstories, do the confrontations in your head with the characters and you create what he's about. And that's what we loved about Steve McQueen. The stuff behind his eyes. That's what they love about Anthony Hopkins about Marlon Brando. You love that. So the more you can qualify it, even if you say it or you don't say it, you think it, and then it's really interesting to watch.
[00:48:36] Jordan Harbinger: Steve McQueen for people who are maybe like in their 20s and have no idea, he's an ultra-famous action star from the—
[00:48:43] Martin Kove: You know, he did everything.
[00:48:44] Jordan Harbinger: He's more than that.
[00:48:45] Martin Kove: He started out in The Blob, which was a horror movie, then The Magnificent Seven, then The Great Escape and then he'd sex and the single girl, and all this stuff. And he ended up doing Enemy of the People and then he, unfortunately, passed away from cancer. But you know, his son, Chad was one of the Cobra Kai. I always told Chad the greatest mistake I ever made. I was hired to play Gentlemen, Jim Corbett, a fighter in Steve McQueen's last Western, Tom Horn. And I had a week's work with Steve McQueen. And the dumbest thing I ever did in my entire career, I went to New York to see my parents and the day I got there, they made this offer and I had to come back the next day and I felt really badly that I would come see my parents for an afternoon and then go back to Hollywood and do a week on this movie. So I passed on it. Biggest mistake I ever made, declined working with a giant, like my idol at the time, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen. They were just my idols at the time. And they did such good work, you know?
[00:49:48] Jordan Harbinger: The backstory and all the nuanced characters we've been talking about, correct me if I'm wrong, but it almost sounds like you don't think that John Kreese is a villain, but he's just maybe misunderstood.
[00:49:59] Martin Kove: Yes, you're absolutely right. He's misunderstood. Whenever people say, "I hated John Kreese, he's such a villain." People walk up to me and say that I say, "No, he's just misunderstood. He's not a villain. He's got a high moral fiber. It might not have been seen in the one-dimensional character we saw in the movies, but now he's very taken by Peyton List's character, Tory. You know, he's very much involved in her plight because he identifies with it. And there are scenes that indicate that more than one coming up, but he's a complicated character. He's not Terry Silver. Terry Silver is pure evil. Terry Silver resents so much being indebted to me. And that's an interesting writer's thing. I never knew that until they wrote it, until he says it to me at the end of season four, you know, "You hate someone and resent them because they saved your life, 30 years ago." That's sick. That's a real sickness, and they dropped in another villain. That is a real villain. He's not misunderstood. He's a real villain.
[00:51:10] Jordan Harbinger: The writing is phenomenal. And I definitely encourage people to binge-watch Cobra Kai, if they're looking for a little nostalgia or just a good show. I mean, you don't even have to know anything about The Karate Kid. You can watch it with your ten-year-olds and they won't care about the movies until you show them. And they're blown away that everyone is so young and looks like the action figures that — you know, it's funny. I had all these Karate Kid action figures and I lost all of them. And a few months ago I went back to clean out my mom's basement with her because she was like, "Get this crap out of my basement," reasonably. And I found one action figure and it was you.
[00:51:42] Martin Kove: Ahh.
[00:51:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:43] Martin Kove: The big one, the one from 84, the one—
[00:51:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's pretty big. And there's a switch on your back and if you push it, the front leg comes up.
[00:51:51] Martin Kove: The leg comes up. Those things would always break off, those legs. It was very funny. Yeah, I have a couple of those. That's the original, that was, it might've been Remco toys. I went to the toy fair back then and it was 84, 85 and it was my first toy fair. And those were the dolls. Now, there's so many. There are sets without Ralph or Billy, sets of Cobra Kai, full figures like that. Then there's several different figures of us, individually. And I have a four-year-old, so I give him everything. So now they have Ninja Turtles fighting John Kreese. They have Ninja Turtles fighting Johnny Lawrence. They have Ninja Turtles fighting Ralph Macchio. It's hysterical because my grandson loves Ninja Turtles. So here the Ninja Turtles are fighting grampy, you know?
[00:52:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's a bit of a trip, I suppose. Yeah. Do people constantly yell, sweep the leg, at you whenever you go to the mall?
[00:52:48] Martin Kove: Pretty much. Not always, but I'll never forget the time I was going into a building and I was pressing the button and had a little screen so they could see who it is and I press the button and they could see who was wanting to come in. And the guy didn't acknowledge me. He just pressed the button to let me in. And he said, "Mercy is for the weak," that's all he said. And it's happened before where some guy says, "No mercy," or "Sweep the leg," but you do cameos, you know?
[00:53:19] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:53:19] Martin Kove: You do these cameos. I have had priests. Ask me to give a pep talk— me, John Kreese, a pep talk to the congregation because he's having a silent auction to raise money for the church. And he wants me to tell them to participate in the silent auction. I've had six-year-olds happy birthdays. I'm their favorite character. Six-year-old. It's like, you know?
[00:53:44] Jordan Harbinger: I like the guy who yells at everybody, the mean guy who yells at everybody. Okay.
[00:53:49] Martin Kove: But it makes you think that maybe these younger kids see that he's not that dark.
[00:53:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:56] Martin Kove: Maybe there's something that inspires them because it's a positive experience. How many bar mitzvahs requests I get? I say mazel tov. And I do my half Torah, you know, the part you read and I recite it. It's like fun.
[00:54:10] Jordan Harbinger: It's got to be rewarding. Look, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. I'm really looking forward to the current season of Cobra Kai. I haven't started it yet. I got to binge the whole thing in a weekend. I haven't had time. Like I said, we just had a baby and I'll probably watch this while going in and out of a sleep deprivation coma with like a diaper in one hand. But thank you so much for bringing back better times for a huge number of our generation. And good luck with your podcast that you're doing now as well.
[00:54:34] Martin Kove: Yeah, Cobra Koves. I think we air tomorrow on PodcastOne. Cobra Koves with my son and daughter. And it's very exciting. We can discuss mental health, bullying, movies, music. Very, very exciting with my son, Jesse, and my daughter, Rachel. Yeah, it's great. I hope they're as articulate as you are my friend.
[00:54:54] Jordan Harbinger: If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into, here's a preview trailer of our interview with Professor Jonathan Haidt, discussing the dangers of free speech limitations here in America, especially on college campuses. So stay tuned for that after the close of the show.
[00:55:10] Jonathan Haidt: There is a new economy of prestige and in the new economy of prestige enabled by social media on college campuses, the more you call someone out for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, you get a point. Every time you do that, you get a point. So every time you accuse someone, it doesn't matter if it's true, it doesn't matter if you destroy them, it doesn't matter. If you call someone out, you get a point.
[00:55:33] And so you have sub-communities in some universities that are playing this game with horrible, external results for everyone else. But if the leadership stands up against it, they will be accused of all kinds of bigotry and insensitivity. So they almost never do. In a victimhood culture, you get prestige either by being a victim, so you emphasize how much you've been victimized, or by standing up for victims and attacking their oppressors. So when you get people in those movements who are, especially if they're a lot of white people in those movements, they tend to be doing that vindictive protectiveness thing.
[00:56:07] You're on camera all the time. And even if you're not literally on camera, the current generation, because they were raised in an age of social media, they self-censor as though they were on cameras. So why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye? But you do not notice the log in your own. I mean, come on, you know, the ancient, and here's Buddha saying the same thing, it's easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one's own faults.
[00:56:29] And on campus, we're telling kids to forget thousands of years of wisdom, look at life through the lens of oppression and domination and violence. Everything is against you.
[00:56:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Do the opposite. But you can't teach that book, it might trigger someone.
[00:56:42] Jonathan Haidt: What kind of world would you rather live in? One in which everyone is polite because they're afraid of offending or one in which people will sometimes say things that they think are true, even if they're offensive.
[00:56:55] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Professor Haidt, including how the concepts of safe spaces and trigger warnings are making our society less safe and less prepared for the real world and what we should be doing instead to prepare ourselves and our kids for reality, check out episode 90 right here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:57:12] Definitely a fun conversation. When I got pitched this, I was like, "Should I do this? It's a little out of the wheelhouse." And I thought, "Yeah, the fans of the show are going to like it. The fans of Cobra Kai are going to like it. The Karate Kid fans are going to like it. And, you know, I understand that might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I really had fun with it.
[00:57:26] Martin Kove is really big into the anti-bullying movement, which is ironic because Sensei Kreese, you know, he's a product of bullying and also his dojo essentially trains bullies. Also, Martin loves westerns and he can shoot and does know martial arts for real. So he's like an actual dangerous guy. He was also on Dancing with the Stars. A lot of you wanted me to ask about that. There's going to be some karate moves in that dance. I assume I will have to watch that on YouTube, but spoiler, he was eliminated in the second week. First pair to get the boot actually. Sounds like the judges showed no mercy. He's also got a really close relationship with his kids. He's doing a podcast on PodcastOne, which is my network. It's called the Cobra Kove right here on PodcastOne, Kove with a K. I guess this guy's probably really big at Comic-Con. You'd imagine he probably can't go anywhere, but especially a place like Comic-Con.
[00:58:10] By the way, he does get spotted a lot. I know we talked about that during the show. There was a story he told off-air that I think is funny enough to share. Since he's been in so many movies, he also gets spotted by not just fans, but other actors that he's worked within those hundred-plus movies that he's done. And one was called Mercenary and he did like a rape scene or something like that in the movie. And he was pretty, he was a pretty awful guy. And then years later, he's seated at a cafe and a woman stands up and says, "Marty, do you remember me? You raped me years ago in San Diego." And obviously, the needle came off the record in the cafe and they had to kind of vocally clarify that it was in a movie, which sounds like a great way to get canceled. I can only assume this was a while ago and nobody had their phone out.
[00:58:53] Also, a lot of folks asked him about the Tarantino movie. We didn't get there in the show, but he met Tarantino at an event and Tarantino gave him his phone number. And for years, Martin was trying to reach Quentin Tarantino because he couldn't read his handwriting. So he's calling all these numbers, they're all the wrong number. Then he runs into him again, gets the wrong number again, which, you know, sounds like my dating life in college, but there's a part of me, that's thinking, maybe Quentin Tarantino didn't really want to put him in a movie, but he ended up in one anyway. So good for him that shows you what you get with persistence.
[00:59:23] Big thank you to Martin Kove. All links to his stuff will be on the website in the show notes. If you buy any books from any guests on the show, please use the website links. It does help support the show. Transcripts of this one are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or just hit me on LinkedIn. I love connecting with you anywhere I can.
[00:59:44] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, software, and tiny habits. All for free, our Six-Minute Networking course. I won't charge you for it. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and build relationships before you find out that you need them.
[01:00:01] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's really in a Karate Kid, '80s nostalgia, Cobra Kai, or just acting, maybe share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of the show. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.