Gianni DeCenzo peels back the curtain of his character Demetri in Cobra Kai.
When YouTube closed its doors on original scripted content, Cobra Kai was picked up by Netflix. In the series, Ralph Macchio and William Zabka from The Karate Kid play their iconic characters now as adults with their own children and with new problems.
Created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, the first two seasons of Cobra Kai had already aired on YouTube, but with the switch to Netflix, it gained a huge following into its unaired third season. The draw for fans is how seamlessly it picks right up from the movies as Danny and Johnny still can't seem to let go of their rocky past.
The show is chock-full of positive life lessons, just straight-up hilarious moments, and yes, karate. But this time around it's (mostly) about a group of new kids looking to make a name for themselves in the All Valley Karate Tournament.
Demetri is one of those characters and is played by Gianni DeCenzo. We sat down with him to talk about his role and see if he had any tips for directors working with younger actors.
No Film School: Be honest. Did you see the Karate Kid movies before or after you got the first script?
Gianni DeCenzo: Haha, I swear I saw each movie at least once, but it was more from my dad’s generation so I never connected to it as much.
NFS: Cobra Kai has a huge following. Have you seen a change since it moved to Netflix?
DeCenzo: Oh, definitely different from when the show first began. When we switched to Netflix, things really seemed to take off. It was amazing to see all the support the show was getting all of a sudden. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to be on set since we made the switch from YouTube because of COVID, but I’m sure things are going to be just as great as the past seasons, and I’m excited to see everybody.
NFS: Your character arc in Season 3 is great. Since the series started you've grown from an unconfident bookworm of sorts to someone who stands up for himself—and even catches the eye of one of the most popular girls in school. Has that been enjoyable for you to play?
DeCenzo: This is the first time I’ve had the chance to play one character for so long. My experience so far has shown that the character kind of becomes its own person, which is a lot of fun as an actor. I love being able to just slip into the mind of Demetri. The only time I ever really question a character is when they do something that at first glance seems a little outside of what they’d normally do.
I actually had to sit down with the Big Three (the creators of the show) to ask them about one of the things that Demetri was going through in season three. They were super helpful with clearing things up for me. They’re usually always available to brainstorm.
NFS: The fighting scenes are always enjoyable to watch. Is there anything you do to prepare for them? Any favorites?
DeCenzo: There’s a lot of stretching, and I mean a lot. But it’s a lot of fun to train with everyone from set. Think of it like a group bonding experience, only you beat each other up.
As far as my favorite fight scene goes, I’d have to say it’s probably the big fight at the end of S3. The continuous shot that they do as we see the entire thing unfold is just awesome!
NFS: That fight was awesome. You guys tore that house up. When it comes to finding the direction or emotion of a scene, any advice you can give to directors that can help actors?
DeCenzo: The thing that helps me most with finding the emotions behind a scene is trying to see what I’m trying to get out of that moment. People always have intentions with everything they do, so find those intentions and play to them. The style of directing is really just a give-and-take scenario where I give some ideas and the director gives ideas, and we just put that all together to make the scene.
NFS: Care to share a behind-the-scenes moment fans may not know about?
DeCenzo: During the S1 All Valley, Moon (played by Hannah Kepple) and Demetri sit in the bleachers watching the whole thing unfold. During filming our moments in the crowd, there was a lot of downtime, so what better way to pass the time than by filling Hannah’s purse with crafty snacks and eat them on set as we play the most intense game of “I Spy” of our lives. By the way, I won. She claims I didn’t win because she didn’t have her glasses… but we all know the truth.
NFS: Is there anything you'd like to see happen with Demetri in Season 4?
DeCenzo: Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing Demetri become more of a leader at Miyagi Do and just his life in general. That, and compete in the All Valley… annnnnd maybe even possibly win. Of course, the creators are going to take it whatever way they want, and at this point, I think that’s proven to be quite successful. Shout out to the Big Three!
You can watch Cobra Kai on Netflix now.
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