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Interview: ‘Cobra Kai’ Star Courtney Henggeler Waxes On About the Hit Show

COBRA KAI (L to R) COURTNEY HENGGELER as AMANDA LARUSSO of COBRA KAI Cr. CURTIS BONDS BAKER/NETFLIX © 2020
Our interview with Courtney

During these less than perfect times, one show has been a much-needed break from reality. Netflix’s Cobra Kai has captured the imagination of viewers with its campy fun, thrilling action, and tons of heart. The spin-off to the iconic Karate Kid film franchise of the 1980s has already been watched by over 73 million viewers – a number that is certain to grow. The show has an amazing cast of both familiar faces like Ralph Macchio and the hilarious William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) and new, Xolo Maridueña and Mary Mouser. There’s one character that will certainly catch viewer’s eye, Amanda LaRusso (Courtney Henggeller).

Amanda is a powerhouse character. In addition to being the wife of Daniel (Macchio), a successful businesswoman, and a mother, she’s also the voice of reason for a show that often takes things to extremes in the very best ways. You never know what to expect. Karate brawls break out around every corner, deadly snakes are always in play and 70-year-old sensei’s (John Kreese) mysteriously return for revenge. In the middle of all the madness is Amanda who serves as a source of strength – not only her family but also viewers who may need a rational thinker to lean on. She is grounded, intelligent, and willing to fight for her family.

The role of Amanda may be Courtney’s breakout role, but it certainly is not her first. Viewers may recognize her as Sheldon’s twin sister ‘Missy’ on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, as well as from other television series like Mom, Into the Dark, Fuller House, Bones, Jane the Virgin, and many more. But, Henggeler also has more up her sleeves than you may expect. In 2020 she wrote and executive produced the Lifetime original movie, The Secret Life of a Celebrity Surrogate.

In addition to acting, writing, and producing, she is also quite delightful – as you can witness for yourself in our spirited video interview (above) or as you read it in its entirety (below). We discuss the chances of us seeing her fight in season 4, the magic behind the show, why she loves writing, 80s guilty pleasures, my dream blast-from-the-past rival for Amanda, and much more.

All three seasons on Cobra Kai, including the brand new season 3, are now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

Cobra Kai – Courtesy of Netflix


Courtney Henggeler Awards Radar Interview:

Steven Prusakowski: The show, Cobra Kai, has been a great success. Congratulations on that. I’m really loving it. So much fun. For those not familiar with the show, can you tell us a little bit about it and your character?

Courtney Henggeler: Well, he doesn’t know Cobrai Kai?

SP: There are a few.

CH: And, it’s mostly my family. Cobra Kai takes the characters of the Karate Kid from the 1980s and and kind of follows up with them where they are now, 30 years later, after the All Valley Tournament where Daniel LaRusso won and Johnny Lawrence lost. It’s kind of like what happened to them now, where are they. It turns out Daniel’s life was pretty great, he’s married to me. He has two children, who are lovely. One is a bit of more of a handful and that would be our son, Anthony. And, Johnny Lawrence’s life kind of plummeted. He’s kind of this beautiful antihero. It’s kind of his story. He opens Cobra Kai again with some great kids and drama and hilarity ensue. I don’t know if they’ll ever hire me to recap the show.

SP: No, that was good. And your character?

CH: I’m, Amanda LaRusso. I play Ralph Macchio’s wife and business partner in our car dealership empire in the valley.

SP: Why did you get involved with the show? Were you a fan of the Karate Kid beforehand?

CH: Yeah, of course. But, I needed a job time. I would have would have taken almost anything. I happened to land this. The best job in the world. So thank God.

SP: It’s quite the job. She’s a great character and the series is just so much fun. It’s the balance of the comedy the action and the drama. I think the comedy really surprises you. There’s some times that it forces you to have to pause the show because you’re just laughing so so much.

CH: Josh (Heald), Jon (Hurwitz) and Hayden (Schlossberg) have a background is in comedy. They did Hot Tub Time Machine and Harold and Kumar. They are just the funniest men you’ll ever meet, so they always infuse it. Plus, we have some people who are just downright hilarious on our show. That, I think, really can carry it. I think that William Zabka is just the funniest thing in the world.

SP: He really is. This show brings him back into the spotlight and really showcases his comedic abilities.

CH: Yeah. I don’t know if anybody knew. Maybe I’m just a bubble about how funny he actually is. I remember the table read going ‘how is this going to work out?’ And, the moment he opened his mouth, I was just like ‘Oh my God he’s hilarious!’ His timing is very amusing to me.

AR: Was it surreal stepping onto the set for the first time with these iconic characters?

CH: Yeah. Yeah. It’s enough to make you go, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and then never come back because you’re so freaked out. I grew up with these guys. My husband’s a huge Karate kid and a fan of William’s Zabka in general. He would just list all the movies. He’s like, ‘Here’s another Billy Zabka movie Courtney. Let’s watch this one.’ Just a huge fan, so I mean, that alone built-up excitement. And plus, this is their world. They’re so well versed in the Karate Kid universe. This is what they’ve been living in for the past 30 years. So as an outsider, you’re kind of walked in and you’re like, ‘Can I play with you guys?’ They were so wonderful about it. So inclusive.

SP: While everyone else is karate-ing up the joint, snakes are showing up in car dealerships, and all this craziness is occurring – and some over the top moments. Your character, Amanda, tend’s to be the relatively level-headed presence on the show. What is that, like being the voice of reason?

CH: Super sexy. Everybody wants to be that voice of reason. I very much enjoy it. because I think. Something gets so ridiculous and out of hand. If you take a step back I think, that’s what Amanda is. She’s kind of the voice of the audience being like, ‘So wait, I’m sorry…. there’s a 70-year-old gentleman and then these two 50-year-old gentlemen and they all want to fight for the soul of the valley through karate, because one of them hooked up the other one’s girlfriend in the ’80s. It doesn’t take it too seriously because there’s characters like Amanda who just always kind of checking what’s happening.

SP: There are some really emotional moments mixed in with comedy and action. What I find it so surprising is how well it’s balanced. There are times that you know watch it with my wife and we look at each other, like rolling her eyes, like, ‘Oh brother.’ Then, a second later you get pulled right back in.

CH: That high school brawl, in the season two finale… I’m just like in awe how they filmed that just like one shot just one continuous shot of just crazy fighting. Um yeah you kind of like. It has heart. It has so much heart and that’s because our creators are just the biggest fanboys of the Karate Kid universe. So they’re not going to put out anything that’s not a pure love for the show. So, it’s because the heart.

SP: The show’s really blown. It’s been trending and it now everybody knows Cobra Kai. Why is it so successful? Why is it really connecting with audiences?

CH: Honestly it’s wild to me. We knew we were making a great, fun show. We also knew that there was kind of a hurdle to get people to Youtube Red, because at that point they weren’t particularly known for having a streaming service. And then everybody else was streaming. Honestly, I think it comes from the top, and that it’s our creators. I think because they are the biggest fans, that they created the best version of the fanfiction that you could want. And they’re constantly satisfying and stirring up things. At the same time, they’re like giving us the moments with Ralph and Billy that you’ve been waiting for. They get them close then they rip them apart. They have all the teenagers in the show with all the drama you could possibly want. It gives you that feeling that, like, ‘I don’t want to tell you that I watched this team drama, but I do and I love it.’ It’s kind of got everything and all the nostalgia, you know? So, if you were a fan of the original films you’re ultimately in, and if you’re a new fan, you have like these new teen heartthrobs to kind of get warm and fuzzy about.

SP: When I started the show, I was kind of worried it’s going to be too teen drama for me. I was also a little hesitant to watch a show about the second generation of characters, because a lot of shows make a mistake. They bring in the baby or add new characters… But what the show does is it actually expanded on the story. And the amount of entertainment that is crammed into each episode is really quite surprising. It’s something unique. I don’t know what it is, but someone’s got a bottle it.

CH: And they make so many good fun characters that you want to kind of explore everybody and everybody’s amusing. They did a great job this season with John Kreese’s backstory. He’s like the ultimate bad guy. There’s kind of nothing redeeming about him. You kind get to experience why he is the way he is. I think that’s just smart and clever and fun twist on it.

SP: Across the board the characters are more complex than you would expect from the series. But, once you’re in you expect everything everything and anything. It’s wonderful. So, you also produced and wrote a film as well. What was that? Do prefer to be be front in front of the camera do you prefer the producing and writing?

CH: I mean, since I was a kid before I knew acting was a profession, I just kind of wanted to do anything that made me front and center. I think I pitched a hula dancer to my parents, a pageant contestant, figure skater and much more. Anything where I could wear something pretty and rolled around in front of people. You know my heart, will always be in the acting. But writing is so much more satisfying to me because I can make people say whatever I want. And, there hasn’t been pressure on me. When I’m writing, i’m just creating whatever I want. I’m just lucky enough that people are like, ‘Cool we’ll buy that from you and we’ll make that for you.’ Yeah, which is great. When I’m writing I can just be in my pajamas all day, in bed, you know, drinking lattes and really, ‘this is my life’ instead of having to be glamorous and live someone else’s life.

SP: Can we expect to see you writing for the show? Is that in the works?

CH: I don’t think so. It’s an interesting question, though. I don’t think I could. These guys have so much knowledge of the Karate Kid universe, that I just fake that I know a quarter of what they know. I’m like, ‘Jesus I don’t remember that character… geez, I remember when that happened.’ I’d fall on my face trying to write that show. Otherwise it’d be a very special Amanda episode and everyone would be like, ‘Where’s the show going?’

SP: That kind of leads me to the next question is, what can we expect from your character, is there any any karate in your future?

CH: I pitch it every season. I really do. When they gave me the slap of Martin Kove I was like, ‘This is it, this is the beginning. I’m going to get into the fighting!’ And they’re like, ‘Oh you’re so cute… that’s never happening.’ Even I think that would be jumping the shark. Even, as much as I want to… and I’m, once again, willing and able… I mean I’m not really able, but I can train maybe be able. I know that, I’m the last character you see like ‘Amanda does a flying spin kick!’ It’s kind of weird.

SP: I’m going to wish something into existence. For season four, maybe season five, Hilary Swank comes back from The Next Karate Kid as your rival and you face off. It’s got to happen.

CH: I always say that I want just like an isolated Amanda scene, where no one else is around. She’s gets bumped at the grocery store, somebody super mean to her, and out of nowhere she just does some crazy move, and then gathers her things, and keeps ongoing. Of course, Amanda knows something, of course, she knows karate – she’s married to this guy. Look at her children. Of course, she knows karate.

SP: That’s a great idea. I like it. Maybe somebody is standing too close, in these times when we should be socially distancing, and you’re just like okay… roundhouse kick. Can you give us any insight into what we can expect for season four? Do you know where to going?

CH: No, they never tell us. It’s probably for the best because I’m way too chatty. I do keep things from my husband because he’s such a fan. But no, they’ll tell us kind of generally. When we begin shooting, whenever we start a season they kind of sit us down and tell us things, but they never really give us details or play by play. So you’re always surprised. Which I love. I love every time I get a script I’m like, ‘Wait! What happened!?’ It’s probably for the best there’s a big cast you know you gotta keep it secret.

SP: Plus, you get to be like a fan, at the same time.

CH: Whatever happens on season four I am sure it’s going to be good.

SP: Is there, another 80s or 90s nostalgia show that you’d like to be part of, or maybe have a crossover with Cobra Kai?

CH: I don’t know about a crossover, but I’d love Troop Beverly Hills to come back somehow. I wanted to be part of it, or maybe just want to have like a Troop Beverly Hills marathon in my house. I’m not sure. That was my guilty pleasure as a child. That’s kind of what made me want to be an actress.

SP: What are three words that you use to describe the show? Your elevator pitch to someone who’s not on board.

CH: Fun. (pause) Action-y. Because that’s a word, right? Fun, action-y… heart. I don’t know if these are really adjectives. They’re just words. You didn’t ask adjectives, you asked for words? Come join us.

SP: Yeah, that’s perfect. Thank you for your time. I’m really loving the show. Congratulations on its success and I look forward to seeing more of it.

CH: Thank you

Interview was edited for clarity.

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