April 24, 2019 Interview – Tanner Buchanan
Everyone deserves a chance for redemption, a chance to show they can do good. In the case of the character Robby Keene, from the YouTube series Cobra Kai, he is not given the best situation and ends up finding trouble around every corner. Coming from a home with a self-absorbed mother and estranged father, Robby is headed down a sketchy path, until he finds balance, and that balance is karate.
A compelling, likable character portrayed by Tanner Buchanan, audiences watched Robby go from would-be delinquent in the first season of Cobra Kai to a well-poised young man under the wing of original Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso. Now with season two, Robby continues his journey toward enlightenment, but like anyone, will there be missteps along the way? An interesting character study, Tanner Buchanan recently sat down to chat about his time playing Robby Keene, the family like atmosphere on and off set of Cobra Kai, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally for almost a decade and have been a part of some cool things over that time. Before going any further, tell us what inspired you to get involved in acting?
Tanner Buchanan – I was actually originally a tap dancer; I started tap dancing when I was about 5 years old. I tapped in a convention called IMTA when I was about 9, and there were agents and managers there who asked if I ever tried acting. I said, “No,” but I was a kid who always wanted to try new things. My mom wasn’t happy at her job and she said, “Maybe we can.” My dad said, “I can support you guys, why don’t you go out for 6 months and see if he likes it.” Six months turned into 10 years and we never left. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – Wow, it’s funny how things turn out sometimes. What has it been like growing into your early adult years as an actor?
Tanner Buchanan – For me, because I’ve been at it for so long, and I’ve been around the business for a while, it seems normal. It is just like going to school, doing sports, or going to get any other job growing up. In my opinion, it’s not a different life for me.
Cryptic Rock – Right, when you have been doing it as long as you have, it has to feel natural. You are now a leading actor on the popular series Cobra Kai, protraying the role of Robby Keene. How did this come about for you?
Tanner Buchanan – I did another show before Cobra Kai called Designated Survivor. For Cobra Kai, I got the audition, and knew it was a The Karate Kid continuation. My mom was a big fan, so I was excited to go in. I went in, got a call back, and got to do a read with Billy Zabka who plays my dad, Johnny Lawrence. Ralph Macchio and the writers, Josh (Heald), Jon (Hurwitz), and Hayden (Schlossberg), were also there; it was really fun to meet them. After that, I actually had to head up to Canada to shoot an episode of Designated Survivor, then Cobra Kai called and said I was going to go to testing. I was extremely excited when I heard I got the job.
It was kind of a normal process, but actually a very quick process in my opinion, because everything happened over the course of 2 weeks. By the time I got back, they said, “You’re going to go to Atlanta in about a week and a half, you are going to be there for 3 months, we are going to shoot these 10 episodes, we’re going to train at the same time, and it’s gonna be amazing!” It happened really quick, but overall it was a pretty normal process, just at an expedited rate.
Cryptic Rock – Wow, that is really fast. Robby, is a very interesting character who is a teenager that does not really have a strong family structure. Looking for some stability and direction, he finds that in karate. So, what has it been like portraying Robby?
Tanner Buchanan – For me personally, I don’t have that unstable family life. My family is extremely stable and I have a good relationship with my parents, so it’s been fun to kind of explore that. Josh, Jon, and Hayden have been so creatively lenient; they actually allow everybody to get into their character and go with what we really think the characters are going through. They wrote these characters, but now that we’re in them, they have handed them off to us saying, “Here you go, this is your’s now. We’ll write for you, but you do what you have to do, because it’s your character.”
Playing Robby has been extremely fun, especially getting to always act with Ralph; he is the nicest guy in the entire world. To get to do all the karate training is also extremely fun. Overall, getting to play Robby is probably one of the most fun characters I’ve ever gotten to play.
Cryptic Rock – You do an exceptional job with Robby, and the character develops even more in season two. Season two coming with a bunch of anticipation. After a great debut for season one, what was it like working on the second season?
Tanner Buchanan – For the second season, I couldn’t wait to get back, because I had so much on the first season. (Laughs) The second season lived up to the first season and I had even more fun and laughed even more on set. We got to train even more, we got to do more stunts, more fighting, etc. Down in Atlanta, where we shoot, it’s just always enjoyable.
The second season was a lot more fun than the first season, and I assume that is the way it’s going to go for years to come, hopefully. Everyone is just a giant family, we get along, laugh, hang out, and it’s just the most amazing time ever.
Cryptic Rock – A good working environment is always a plus and that chemistry shows on screen. With a very balanced cast, what has it been like with the mix of younger and older actors/actresses?
Tanner Buchanan – Working with everyone is an extreme pleasure. You have your two sides, you have Cobra Kais and you have Miyagi-Dos. I am around the Miyagi-Do a lot with Ralph and Mary (Mouser); we’re always laughing and joking around. There is a time for serious moments as well, but they are the nicest people in the world. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
As for the Cobra Kais, we don’t get to see each other very much, except for maybe when we show up in the same episodes. It’s funny, because even the days we don’t see each other at work, we always make it a priority to see each other off the set and hang out. I’ve never experienced that before, I’ve never been on a show with a lot of teens consistently. It’s fun to see how everyone gets along, hang out, and do game nights and stuff. It’s just incredible; everyone is so friendly and loving, it’s the most amazing set ever.
Cryptic Rock – That is all really great to hear. You mentioned Mary Mouser, who plays Samantha LaRusso. We see at the end of season one a relationship begins to develop between you two. What has it been like working with Mary moving into the second season?
Tanner Buchanan – Me and Mary get along so well. We are like best friends now; we hang out, we even train together. We are both from LA, and we hang out in LA together now too. It’s amazing working with her, we really connect. We are both interested in the same music and bands; I would say that was probably the starting point of our friend relationship. On set, we will get snacks together, we’re just always around each other on set, and we are kind of inseparable. (Laughs) Ask just about anybody they will say, “If one’s going somewhere, the other one is following.”
Cryptic Rock – Good for you, it is nice to hear you have developed a friendship like that. Within the lines of Cobra Kai, there is a pretty shocking ending to season two. Were you surprised to see the direction the story went and the finale?
Tanner Buchanan – I was very surprised. I had an idea of where the beginning of season two was going to go before I came in, but I had no idea it was going to end where it was going to. By the time I got to episode 10, and was reading it, I was completely shocked.
In season one, everybody kind of ends on a high, something is happening for everybody in this world; which was actually a good thing, even if some things were lost. Actually, by the time you get to the end of season two, the writers completely flip it around. They take everything that was hopeful in season one and have broken all the characters. If we have a season three, everybody is going to have to rebuild themselves.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully there will be a season three, because they cannot end it all with how season two plays out. One of the really cool things about the show, and the characters, is there are really no enemies. Everyone has their redeeming qualities and everyone has likable qualities. As a viewer, you see things from all angles.
Tanner Buchanan – Yes, I think what makes the show so pleasing to viewers, and the actors a part of it, is that Josh, Jon, and Hayden do an incredible job of just writing what human beings go through. This may not be a normal situation, but they are written as actual human beings. What I mean by that is, you can have a friend that sometimes does stuff you don’t like, and you’re going to get mad at them, but they also do things you like. There could be a stranger on the street, and they are doing something you don’t like, but you don’t know their life, maybe they are doing a bunch of stuff you might agree with.
The writers and producers just do a good job of finding that balance of not making a villain and not making a hero. In life, everyone has qualities that could make them likable and unlikable, because nobody is perfect. Everybody is a human being and no human being is perfect. They write great characters and that is what their main goal is on the show. They are writing human beings and they want people to relate to these characters. As of now, from the response we’ve gotten, it seems a lot of people can agree with that.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, there is so much gray area in life, and these characters show that. Beyond Cobra Kai, you have some other projects you are working on. What can you tell us about these other projects?
Tanner Buchanan – There are a few movies I’ve been doing. One is called Max Winslow and the House of Secrets starring Chad Michael Murray. I just got finished with that not too long ago and it’s a great ensemble type of movie. I also did a movie called The Hyperions which is based in the ’70s and it’s kind of that Wes Anderson type of film; that dry comedy, but serious when it needs to be.
I have a few other things coming up that I can’t really speak about right now, but I’m very excited because I’ve stayed busy. I’m extremely grateful for Cobra Kai and all these other projects. Everything is going extremely well right now and I couldn’t ask for a better life. I’m so grateful.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you have some really cool stuff coming up. Last question, you spoke about music, so tell us, what are some of your favorite bands?
Tanner Buchanan – I’m actually an extreme metalhead. I play guitar and used to be in a Progressive Death Metal band. Some of the bands I like would be Mastodon, Gojira, Dillinger Escape Plan, Bloodbath, Opeth, etc. My favorite Metal band, and they are not necessarily Progressive Death Metal, but they are what got me into Metal, is Pantera. That is the Metal side of me.