Interview – Gianni Decenzo

Interview – Gianni Decenzo

Every character in film/television has a different arc. Some are predictable, while others not so much. In the hit series Cobra Kai, the character of Demetri has certainly taken a few twists and turns no one saw coming. Initially awkward and uncertain, by season two of Cobra Kai, Demetri comes into his own as a force to be reckoned with. Portrayed by the talented Gianni DeCenzo, Demetri has come to life before our very eyes and become a fan favorite. Taking the time to talk about Demetri, Gianni DeCenzo recently sat down to also chat about his journey into acting, the crew of Cobra Kai, his future plans, and a whole lot more.

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally working in television for a decade now. First off, tell us what initially inspired you to pursue acting? 

Gianni DeCenzo – Honestly, my parents, they were actors way before me and my older brother were born. They actually met in an acting class and my dad proposed in that same acting class. I think it’s my favorite story to tell, I tell it all the time. So, because of that, it’s always kind of been in my family. One day when I was eight years old, I just kind of walked up to my parents and asked when I was going to be on TV, and so the rest is history. My mom took some pictures of me out in the front yard and we sent it out to some agents. The managers did a few short films, a couple of commercials, and there we go.

Cryptic Rock – Very interesting! And here you are all these years later and finding success in it. How redeeming is it to see all the hard work pay off with many years ahead of you?

Gianni DeCenzo – It’s very redeeming. The thing about acting, and this whole industry, is it takes time. You know, it’s rarely an overnight thing. Like you said, I’ve been doing this for a decade now since I was eight years old. I’m 20 now. It’s super rewarding after having put in all of this work and seeing all the time that my parents took out of their days to help me reach my dreams. It’s super fulfilling and really rewarding.

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YouTube

Cryptic Rock – That’s great to hear. In more recent years, you have become a key character on Cobra Kai since the series started in 2018. How did Cobra Kai come about for you?

Gianni DeCenzo – I had gotten the audition a couple years back. When I saw it, I was like, “Oh cool, it’s like a Karate Kid sort of continuation 30 years later.” So, I go in there, I auditioned, I do the cafeteria scene when we first meet Demetri. Then literally that weekend, they got on the phone with us and told us that they needed me to fly out to Georgia for a good week or so. It was crazy because that was the first time that I had ever had to even go outside of L.A. to do anything. So now to be flying like four hours out from California to Georgia was an awesome first experience.

Cryptic Rock – Fantastic. It has been interesting to see the character of Demetri develop. Obviously, all the characters have changed through the three seasons, but it very visible with Demetri. What has it been like developing the character?

Gianni DeCenzo – It’s been a lot of fun. The cool thing about doing a long running series like this is that you get to grow with the character. It kind of becomes its own person, and then eventually you can just kind of flick in and out of the character. It’s cool seeing as the years go by where they take Demetri next. I never know, going into a season of the show, where it’s going to go. Along the way I find out and it’s cool watching his entire arc unfold in front of me.

Cryptic Rock – Demetri is a character that is… how would you say it, a little bit neurotic. Then he comes into his own, he comes of age. The big moment for Demetri was at the end of Season Two. Would you agree?

Gianni DeCenzo – Oh, yeah, definitely. Demetri has definitely had a very interesting character arc. Like you said from Season One, he was like this nerdy kind of kept to himself sort of character. Then by the third season he’s kicking ass in a house and making out with one of the hottest girls in the school. He’s had a pretty good run. Yeah, he’s gotten hurt along the way, got flipped by Johnny or his nose broken by Kreese. Then, of course, more recently his arm having been broken by his former best friend, Hawk, now turned best friend again… it’s a complicated relationship. It’s just so cool kind of seeing how far this character has come. I’m proud of him.

COBRA KAI (L to R) JACOB BERTRAND as ELI and GIANNI DE CENZO as DEMETRI. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Cryptic Rock – As you should be. You mentioned the rekindled friendship with Hawk in Season Three. What has it been like working with all the other cast? From an outside perspective, it appears the chemistry is great. The creative time has really given your character a lot of space to develop and be part of that that key group of the in Cobra Kai.

Gianni DeCenzo – It’s a lot of fun getting to work with everyone because it really does feel kind of like a family just making a TV show. We hang out a lot. During most of Season Three, I want to say Jacob (Bertrand) and Xolo (Maridueña) and I, we would play a lot of this card game called Magic: The Gathering. It’s a very nerdy game and I absolutely love it. When they were teaching it to me at the time, I wasn’t very good at it so obviously they kicked my ass at first. But I’m starting to get good at it, it’s a little bit of an obsession. It’s just cool getting to work with everyone and getting to build these memories with everyone.

Cryptic Rock – It definitely bleeds through in the series; it seems like everyone enjoys working together. As you had mentioned, obviously it is a continuation of The Karate Kid films. The writing has been fantastic. Beyond that, it really the series really has interesting message, because we are living in a different time three decades later. What is socially acceptable and what is not socially acceptable is vastly different. As someone who has grown up and coming of age at 20 in the modern time, you are getting a glimpse of how things used to be. What is that like for you and playing it out on television?

Gianni DeCenzo – It’s very surreal. I think that things have kind of gotten a little bit more difficult as far as growing up goes, especially with the Internet. Especially now people can just say whatever they want and it’s completely anonymous. People just say harsher and harsher things and they don’t care because to them it’s like, “Well, they don’t know who I am, so there’s no consequences.”

It’s definitely a lot harder to grow up now and I think that Cobra Kai kind of goes into that a little bit, especially with the younger cast. They show kind of how bad things could get. Especially a lot of bullying and cyber bullying going on in the first season there with Aisha. Seeing stuff like that happens I hope would show kids that it happens to a lot of people and it doesn’t have to affect you. You know, you can stand strong, it doesn’t have to change you or break you or anything like that.

Cryptic Rock – Right. One of the key aspects that the show is trying to drive home is the self-confidence to stand by who you are, but without hurting someone else. It is about self-defense. That in mind, Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do Karate teach differently. 

Gianni DeCenzo – Yeah, it’s interesting. I can’t wait to see what happens in Season Four, because now that Johnny and Daniel are working together, it’s going to be interesting. It’s like oil and water, they don’t quite mix with their fighting styles. Now that they’re kind of co-running this dojo, they’re going to have to figure out how to coexist, you know? So that’s definitely going to be a very interesting experience to see there.

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Netflix

Cryptic Rock – It is all very compelling. Now we know Cobra Kai will not only be back for Season Four on December 31, 2021, but it is secured for a fifth season as well! Since we are talking Karate and Cobra Kai, you actually are trained in self-defense, yes? 

Gianni DeCenzo – Yeah, so I do Krav Maga, it’s a little bit different from Karate. It’s more streetfighter, just self-defense. It’s very much like gouge the eyes out, kick someone in the groin and then run. That’s the big takeaway from Krav Maga. It’s all about getting out of the situation as fast as you can. Luckily, I have been doing that, I want to say for about five years now.

With Cobra Kai, we actually have to train how to do certain things in Karate for the show. Going into it, I had that kind of under my belt so I was able to kind of keep up with some of the other cast mates. Obviously Demetri, in the beginning, he didn’t have quite as much training, because he wasn’t doing as much Karate. So, the other cast mates were able to get a couple more lessons in than Demetri did. But yeah, it’s super fun if anyone is looking for something to take up, Karate or just any form of Martial Arts. It’s a great exercise and you’ll love it.

Cryptic Rock – It’s interesting to hear that. Well, Cobra Kai is doing well, it is a top-rated show on Netflix. What do you have coming up next? Is there anything else that you could tell us about that you are going to be working on?

Gianni DeCenzo – Unfortunately, with everything that’s kind of been going on as far as Covid goes, I haven’t been able to work on too many other projects. I think right before Covid happened, I had done one Disney thing on a show called Coop and Cami and it was a lot of fun, a great group of people. But after things kind of die down a little bit and clear up, I want to kind of do some other projects and see what else is out there. Especially, maybe work with some of the cast and crew later on. That could a very fun.

Cryptic Rock – Very cool. Is there any particular genre that you would like to work in that you are interested in? Are you open to the challenge of anything?

Gianni DeCenzo – I’m always open to working in anything. I think something I really want to do, because eventually I want to kind of make my own shows and movies, is I really want to do kind of Action films. I’m a boy at heart and I love my action and I love Rock-n-Roll. I just want to see what kind of stuff I can do there. For me, Action has just always been a passion of mine.

Netflix

 

Cryptic Rock – That is very interesting. So, do you want to write and direct your own film, or star in it and do everything on the creative end as well? 

Gianni DeCenzo – Oh yeah, I want to do like the whole nine yards, I want to be able to write it, act in it, direct in it, really anything. I just want to tell and be in my own stories.

Cryptic Rock – Sounds very ambitious! So, what are some of your favorite Action films? 

Gianni DeCenzo – I think my all-time favorite would have to be Baby Driver (2017) by Edgar Wright. First of all, he is my favorite director. I just love what he does with the music and the action. How he blends the two together and every little action moment is on beat with the song. Oh yeah, Baby Driver is just kind of been like, “OK, I want to do that.” That’s what kind of made me want to, especially, create my own shows. I’m hoping to employ some of his sort of style into my own work eventually one day, especially with the music. Personally, I think a soundtrack can make or break a show.

Cryptic Rock – Oh, most certainly. Cobra Kai’s soundtrack has been fantastic. You seem like you are really into the music and you understand the importance of music in film and television. You like Rock-n-Roll, so what are some of your favorite artists?

Gianni DeCenzo – My all-time favorite would definitely have to be Jack White. Really anything he does; he’s been in a lot of bands. I think my favorite of his would have to be the White Stripes. I don’t know, it’s just something about his music, I just love it. Whether it’s “Icky Thump,” “We’re Going To Be Friends,” or just stuff like that. It just has a really cool feel in it. When I eventually make my own film and TV, I’m definitely asking for the rights to those songs because I’m putting them in everything I have. (Laughs)

For more on Gianni DeCenzo: giannidecenzo.com | Twitter | Instagram 

 

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