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Jacob Bertrand is back as fan-favorite Hawk—the bolder, flashier alter ego of Eli, a previously bullied character—in Cobra Kai, the YouTube Premium series based on the Karate Kid franchise. While the nonstop action and cool fight scenes are fun for Bertrand and his co-stars, the young actor especially relishes the opportunity to share important life lessons in an entertaining, non-preachy way.
The web series debuted its second season this week, so we caught up with Bertrand to get the scoop on what it’s like to play Hawk and the training routine that’s helped him portray a martial arts star convincingly.
M&F: Cobra Kai is a continuation of the iconic Karate Kid franchise. Were you familiar with the originals?
Jacob Bertrand: Oh yeah. When I was about 8 years old, my dad showed them to me and my little brother. He probably regretted it later, because then we’d run around the house fighting and acting out the scenes from the movies.
How did you prepare for this role?
We did a month or two of intense training before we started filming, so we were in good hands with our sensei and our stunt coordinators. They kicked our butts but got us in great shape.
What your training routine like now?
We train for about an hour every day, but I feel like it’s gotten easier. We’ve all gotten a lot better between season one and season two. I now do 90 percent of my own stunts. We have great stunt coordinators. Our stunts were nominated for an Emmy last year. I love being active, though—I’m into rock climbing, surfing, anything outdoors.
Do you follow a certain diet regimen?
We don’t have a strict diet. We just eat a lot. The show is so physical that we need to keep up our energy levels. Fortunately, the catering we have on set is awesome.
Any injuries or mishaps during filming?
We’re trained so well that there are almost no injuries. The only time there was a stray hit was when Xolo [Maridueña] accidentally punched me in the face, and it wasn’t even in a fighting scene. I got a bloody nose, but I let him off the hook by making like it was just from the dry heat outside.
Your character, Eli, starts out being bullied but goes through a major transformation and emerges as Hawk, a confident guy with a wild mohawk and an impressive back tattoo.
When I went into the audition, I had no idea Hawk was even a thing. I only knew about Eli. I was so stoked when I found out about this character transformation. It’s like playing two roles in one, and it’s so exciting to explore a character who goes in a completely opposite direction. I was bullied in school and eventually had to defend myself, so I could really relate to this story and I love seeing this character morph into Hawk.