April 23, 2019 Interview – Jacob Bertrand
At one point or another, everyone is picked on or ridiculed. More common during our young years, being teased is never fun, and many times, can destroy self-confidence. That in mind, what if you could turn the tables and change everyone’s perception of you? This is exactly what the meek character named Eli Moskowitz does on YouTube’s hit series Cobra Kai. Tired of being pushed around and the butt of a joke, Eli faces his shortcomings head on, transforming himself into the badass everyone knows as Hawk. Beaming with confidence, to an almost cocky level, Hawk is everything Eli was not, and a force to be reckoned with considering his new found Karate skills.
A compelling piece to the puzzle in Cobra Kai, Eli, aka Hawk, is flawlessly portrayed by the talented Jacob Bertrand. A vital character in The Karate Kid spin-off series throughout season one, just wait to see how his story unfolds in season two. Anxious for the launch of the 10 new episodes, which are set for release on April 24th via YouTube Premium, Bertrand took the time to chat about his introduction to the world of acting at a young age, having a blast playing Hawk, his thoughts on season two, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in film and television since you were pretty young. First, tell us, what inspired you to first get involved in acting?
Jacob Bertrand – My sister actually, she would always bug my parents about wanting to act. We have no ties to this industry, so they had no idea how to go about it. My mom ended up sending our family Christmas cards to a bunch of agents and a couple called back; they ended up hiring me, my brother, and my sister. I went out for my first commercial and I ended up booking it. It was an Oscar Meyer commercial, and totally loved it! I sort of caught the bug off that one commercial and kept wanting to work.
Cryptic Rock – That is pretty cool. You have been involved in some fun stuff since then. With reoccurring roles on television series, what has it been like growing up the last 10 years in that environment?
Jacob Bertrand – I loved it, it was really fun! I love learning, but I’m not a huge fan of school. (Laughs) I learned best with a set teacher; having that one on one was really beneficial for me. The public school system is not for everyone, and I think I really benefited from the school system they have in place for kids on set.
I really loved being on set, it was so much better than school for me; I got bullied a lot when I was younger. I would say growing up on set helped me really grow. I have great parents, plus my brother and sister, who really keep me very grounded. I think it’s probably the best thing for me honestly.
Cryptic Rock – Everyone learns differently, and it sounds like you have taken a lot away from your experiences. You mention that you were actually bullied when you were younger, which is interesting considering you play, Eli, aka Hawk, on Cobra Kai, who is also picked on at school. How did the role come about for you?
Jacob Bertrand – I got the call from my agent about the audition, and when I heard what the project was, I thought, “Dang, this is really cool!” It was weird going from being a kid who was bullied, and a shy, insecure character, to totally doing a 180, to being a badass, and almost kind of becoming a bully himself. That was honestly pretty weird to be on the other side of that coin, but I love it. It is probably the most fun role I’ll ever have or do. It’s so cool, they write such great stuff for Hawk!
Cryptic Rock – You have done a great job with Hawk and it’s fun watching the character develop. You talk about going from the bullied to becoming the bully. What is it like playing this sort of bad guy character?
Jacob Bertrand – It’s awesome, I love it, and it’s so much fun! I pretty much get to be the bad guy, which is so cool; I’ve always wanted to play the villain. It’s just so much fun to be a little evil, get to curse, and I love beating up people too. (Laughs) I don’t know if I could do it in real life, but hey, as long as I get to do it in the movies, right?
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Yes, and it makes for good fun. Season two hits on April 24th on YouTube Premium with 10 fantastic new episodes. So, when you saw how things were playing out for this new season, what did you think?
Jacob Bertrand – Season 2 is awesome! It’s so much bigger and I love the red mohawk. It’s so much fun, we get to do almost all our own stunts, and there’s a fight almost every single episode. Everything that was so badass about Cobra Kai in season one, is times 5 in season two!
Cryptic Rock – It absolutely is. We see Hawk is still going in an upper-ward trajectory of being an aggressor. That in mind, Miguel’s character is a little more apprehensive. What is it like playing opposite the character of Miguel who is going in a different direction?
Jacob Bertrand – That’s very interesting, because it’s weird playing off that. You’re right, we are both heading down two completely separate paths. I think the main thing that bonds us is we are both buying into the ideology of Cobra Kai, where everyone is brothers and you look out for each other. In season two, you get to see a lot more interaction between us, and not so much in brotherly sense, but there is a lot more conflict between us.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and we also get to see a little more into the story of Eli and what he went through prior to becoming Hawk and joining Cobra Kai.
Jacob Bertrand – I love that. When the writers told me they wanted to bring Eli back for a little part of it, I was pretty stoked. It was a character I played for a little bit, and didn’t really get to see it all. That’s always super cool to bring that back; it’s a whole different range of emotions for that character.
Cryptic Rock – You are right, Eli and Hawk are completely different. Hawk is now at odds with his former best friend Demetri, portrayed by Gianni Decenzo. What is it like seeing Demetri go from a friend to an enemy?
Jacob Bertrand – It’s definitely hard, because I love Gianni, he is the most lovable person ever. It’s so weird having him as an enemy, especially in the show, because we were really good friends on the show. There is such a long past between us, and I think for Hawk, there is a little bit of regret in fighting his best friend because they were so close.
For the longest time, Eli was so ostracized, so it’s really hard for him to turn his back on someone who was his best friend. Ultimately, he has totally moved on, really trying to give up everything in his past life, and if that includes Demetri, it is really a kind of ‘so be it’ for Hawk.
Cryptic Rock – Right. The way season two concludes, you really have to believe there will be a third season. That said, would you agree there is more to come for the arch of Hawk’s character?
Jacob Bertrand – Yes, there hopefully will be a lot more. The writers are phenomenal and everything they dish out is awesome. I’m very hopeful a season three will go through. If it does, it will be phenomenal.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully it will happen. The cast is doing a great job; it is a strong cast of veteran and younger actors/actresses. That said, what has it been like working with the likes of Billy Zabka and Ralph Macchio?
Jacob Bertrand – They’re amazing! I’ve actually only shot 1 or 2 scenes with Ralph, but I’m with Billy and Marty (Kove) all the time. Those guys are so much fun to work with. Watching rehearsals is the biggest place I learn a lot from them. It’s so weird how they are so badass in real life.
There is a scene in the second season where Johnny is teaching the class how to do headbutts. As he is teaching, he breaks the board over his head, and in the shot Billy felt the wood, and said, “This is kind of lame. This is really flimsy, I want a thicker piece.” He asked for an actual thick piece of wood and decided to break that with his head!
Cryptic Rock – That makes it much more authentic. Speaking of the authenticity, the action scenes are extremely well done. Obviously you need to know what you are doing to shoot these scenes, yes?
Jacob Bertrand – Yes, for this season we actually got to do almost all our own stunts. There was one scene they would not let me do for safety reasons; I was actually really bummed they wouldn’t let me. We did training a couple of months before we went up to Atlanta to film. We are constantly training and stretching. We do a ton of training, they actually have this portable room on wheels that we call the ‘ice box.’ We call it that because the air condition in there is so cool, and that is where we train. It’s a mixture of sweat, laughing, and messing around with each other. It’s always a blast.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds intense, but you probably also learn something from all the training too.
Jacob Bertrand – Oh yea, I walk around beating up people all the time, it’s great. With my new found Karate skills, I feel invincible. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Well it’s exciting to see where the story unfold in season two. You mentioned Martin Kove, and we also see the return of his character John Kreese. What has it been like working with Martin?
Jacob Bertrand – He’s great. He is like the most legendary man ever. He makes all these one liners and is a very cool guy to work with.
Cryptic Rock – His character plays a big role in the second season too. So, did you happen to watch The Karate Kid films prior to working on Cobra Kai?
Jacob Bertrand – I did actually. My brother and I would watch the movies, we saw part 1 and 2, but I actually have never seen part 3. I have also seen The Next Karate Kid (1994).
My brother and I would act out the last fight scene between Daniel and Johnny all the time, but we would get in arguments over who we wanted to be… who wants to get kicked in the face, right? We would also argue who got to do the legendary crane kick, and would end up wrestling over who got to kick each other in the face. So The Karate Kid ended up being a point of tension between my brother and I because we would just fight every time we wanted to act it out.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) That is probably a story many siblings or childhood friends can relate to being a fan of The Karate Kid. Having that knowledge and love of The Karate Kid, you were probably really pumped when the role came about, right?
Jacob Bertrand – When my agent sent me the email for this role I said, “Oh yes! This is cool. I really want to do this!” I took Karate a little bit when I was younger, I did it 4 years. I ended up getting a purple belt, but I don’t remember anything. It was just really cool to get offered this role.
Cryptic Rock – That is awesome. It will be exciting to see what people’s thoughts are once they watch season two. As we spoke about earlier, you have done other shows in the past, but you have also done voice-overs. What is that work like?
Jacob Bertrand – I love doing voice-overs. That’s an area where I really first started; I started in commercials, ADR loop groups, and then I did a lot of voice-overs for Nickelodeon’s stuff. It’s the most fun, it’s really the most chill vibe ever, and you really get to experiment with whatever you want. You have a lot of room to mess around and take your time. I love playing different characters with my voice, because you don’t really have to care what your face looks like; you can contort your face so your voice can do whatever you want, and no one is going to laugh at you.
Cryptic Rock – It also has to be cool to watch the final product after you are done and see your voice dubbed up as an animated character.
Jacob Bertrand – It is pretty cool. I think one of the coolest thing was actually doing a video game. The coolest thing I ever did though was a Tom and Jerry movie called Tom and Jerry’s Giant Adventure (2013). I grew up watching Tom and Jerry at my grandma’s house all the time.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds as if you grew up with a lot of cool vintage, classic stuff. It appears you really appreciate it all too.
Jacob Bertrand – I grew up listening to all my dad and mom’s music, and watching a bunch of older movies. I think I saw The Usual Suspects (1995) when I was around 8 or 9.
Cryptic Rock – It is really cool to hear you appreciate the older music and movies. Now with Cobra Kai ‘s second season set for release, do you have any other projects coming up?
Jacob Bertrand – Yea, I’m just auditioning and taking as many opportunities as I can.
Cryptic Rock – Good to hear. The character of Hawk probably gives people a completely different prospective on your diversity as an actor.
Jacob Bertrand – Yea, it’s pretty cool. I really like the opportunity. I did Nickelodeon and Disney stuff, so this is a little bit out of the wheelhouse. It’s more fun to play a villain. With the cast that is on Cobra Kai, it’s definitely cool to watch the older guys work. Even the writers alone, working with them has really helped me grow. We are all growing a lot watching and being able to work with everyone. This role is definitely a really awesome opportunity and I love every bit of it.
Cryptic Rock – It seems like you are really taking a lot out of it. Last question, what are some of your favorite movies?
Jacob Bertrand – I really love Good Will Hunting (1997). One of the first movies I ever saw was Ocean’s Eleven (2001). I also love The Shawshank Redemption (1994). I also really like The Town (2010); I love bank robbery movies. That was probably my dream as a kid, while others said they wanted to be a race car driver, astronaut, or a fireman, I always said I wanted to be a bank robber. (Laughs)