The word is out, Cobra Kai is a hit! The Karate Kid saga continues 34 years later on streaming giant YouTube Red. We now see Daniel LaRusso embracing life as a successful business owner and dedicated family man that has passed his karate passion along to daughter Samatha, played by actress Mary Mouser. While Samatha embraced her dad’s lessons while growing up, we now see her focus has shifted to finding a way through troublesome times as a teenager. How does she balance popularity with loyalty? What was it like being a legendary LaRusso? Mary took a few moments to chat with Fan Fest News about her role as a LaRusso in Cobra Kai.
Linda: I finished watching Cobra Kai series and I loved it! You were great!
Mary: Thank you very much.
Linda: How were you approached for that role [Samantha LaRusso] and had you watched The Karate Kid?
Mary: I initially auditioned for the role having no idea what Cobra Kai was and it was kind of a joke with me and boyfriend because he’s the biggest fan ever. He asked me what I was doing that day and I said, oh I have this audition for something called Cobra Kai and he’s like, “Are you kidding me? Like Cobra Kai?” I said yeah, Cobra Kai. I would play somebody named Daniel LaRusso’s daughter. He freaked! He was dying laughing and we ended up looking into it and he was like, this is The Karate Kid continuation. I said, oh my god, way to make me nervous now. I hadn’t ever seen the movie before and because it was one my boyfriend’s favorite movies, we were waiting to watch them when we could watch the whole series but we just hadn’t had the time yet. At that point I was like, now I’m too nervous and I probably won’t get a callback so, we’ll just watch it in a week or so. Then I ended up getting the callback and figured, well it won’t go any further than this so, we’ll just watch it in a few days. It kept happening like that until finally, I got to the final screen test with Ralph [Macchio], then I got the call the next day that I had booked it. I was like, ok, time to watch it! (laughing) We actually binged it and I watched it, I’m gonna say, more than 5 times each since. So I definitely consider myself now a superfan.
Linda: I love that story! Do you have any kind of background in martial arts? You had some great moves in there.
Mary: I did not. I know how to throw a punch but I don’t really know any of the intricacies of karate. It’s a learning curve but it’s a lot of fun.
Linda: So what did you have to do for training?
Mary: The boys obviously had crazy schedules, they had a lot more to prep for over the season and their arc. I didn’t really have any crazy training schedule, it was more like whenever something was coming around we would work maybe like a week out before it. Hiro Koda who was the stunt coordinator would go over it once or twice and then practice it as much as possible and then figure out the rest on the day. It was a lot of fun though, I love to train.
Linda: What was it like to work with Ralph? Was he ‘fatherly’ toward you on the set?
Mary: Oh, absolutely. I literally had to have him come kill a bug in my apartment because I was too scared. When I had a cold, he was texting me to stay inside, stay warm. Even now, like my birthday, I just had my birthday a week ago and one of the first texts I got that morning was from him telling me happy birthday. Honestly, he kept saying, “Call your TV dad.” He was amazing to work with and on top of that on the action side is, ya know, what can I even say getting to work with Ralph Macchio. Like it was insane! He’s such a sweetheart and, I say this about Ralph and about Billy, that they really did an amazing job of not making it feel like we were intruding on anything or that we could mess anything up. They did a great job of making it so welcoming. We didn’t feel like we were encroaching on anything, they were so arms open wide about the whole process and that was very special and very exciting.
Linda: That’s awesome! He seems like a sweet guy.
Mary: His actual daughter and I are [only] a few years apart and we are the exact same height, we are both 5’1″ and 3/4 of an inch, we laugh about this. We are so similar. When his wife and daughter came into town we all went out and saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show, his wife loves it. It was a great time, I feel like an honorary family member I’d hope to say. (laughing)
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Linda: That is so sweet! Another subject I wanted to speak to you about regarding Cobra Kai, and The Karate Kid as well, is was the bullying component. It seems like your character Samantha has such a good heart, she maintains a relationship with her outcast friend Aisha and a romantic interest with Miguel but still is able to fit in with the ‘in crowd’. I was hoping to hear your take on that and the impact it had on your character and what you would like to see from her. What advice might you offer her?
Mary: The thing I say is that she’s me, she’s a lot of girls at that age. It was challenging in a way to look at it from a different perspective. She has a good heart and she came from a good upbringing, she knows right from wrong but I feel like there’s that part of her that gets overpowered by the fact that she just wants to feel cool and to fit in and what’s the difference between popular and cool and what’s the difference between being part of the ‘in crowd’ and then just being part of something that you just don’t want to be a part of anymore. I feel like that was interesting trying to figure out how to make her a girl who was trying to fit in but somebody who still knows that she’s doing the wrong thing when her friends are laughing at one of her best friends from childhood and kind of figuring that out. It was an important thing for me to work with because it’s something I’ve faced and I think it’s something a lot of girls face is trying to make sure that you stay true to who you are despite the pressures people put on you just to be cool. Peer pressure just to be cool, that’s so crazy to me. It’s a daily thing that I remember in high school.
I think it’s so important that this show tackles bullying as it is today versus how it was in the 80’s, it’s a very different animal now. I think they did a great job of incorporating all of the different levels and layers of what that looks like now between cyber-bullying and how mean kids can be and things like that. I was really intrigued by that whole concept in the show. So if I could give Samantha any advice it would probably be like, as silly as it sounds and as basic as it sounds, sometimes it’s just good to hear… just stay true to who you are. Remember what you came from. I feel like all kids do this, we come up into this age like nobody gets what I’m going through right now but their parents already went through all that. The parents are trying to say hey you’re being an idiot, don’t do this but you’re like, they don’t get it. Samantha LaRusso was dealing with this stuff and Daniel LaRusso already went through this. If you would just ask him what to do about the kids bullying in school, he would give great advice! I feel like that’s just something we all deal with. Stay true to where you came from and don’t just make it all your problem on your own.
Linda: I agree with you 100%. I was intrigued by how your character was caught in the middle ground when I typically see either one or the other. Thank you for sharing your insight.
Mary: Of course.
Linda: To shift to the lighter side of things, how did you feel about the 80’s retro aspect throughout the series?
Mary: I feel like I didn’t have much 80’s education, to be honest. I feel like I was pretty lacking in that. I listened to the bands that they were talking about, I listened to that music but I don’t know that I knew as much of the cultural references. Somebody was like, no, you don’t get it, karate was actually a big deal in the valley. That’s not just something in the movie, that is actually a trend. I was like, What!? So I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit of 80’s education through the process of shooting and hearing all the stories but I feel like I still have a little ways to go. I might need to catch some movies and delve into some 80’s hair metal.
Linda: I know Season 2 has been confirmed and I’ve gotten lots of great feedback from fellow fans. Did you anticipate this kind of success for Cobra Kai?
Mary: I’ve been doing this since I’m 5 years old so, for almost 17 years now, and it [might] sound a bit annoying, but what I mean to say is that I’ve gotten to a place where I do what I do when I’m there and I don’t expect anything to come next because you never know the things that people say like, “This is gonna be a hit” and then nobody responds to it or there are things where nobody expects anything or go anywhere and then all the sudden it’s popular. This one [Cobra Kai], everyone knew on set and while we were filming that we were doing something very special and something that we were really excited to share with people and that people would respond well, but I think I just kind of plugged my ears because I just wanted to enjoy what I’m doing here and not worry about how many people were going to see this or what kind of people were going to see this. What if this group doesn’t like it or… I just kind of tried to block it all out. Now it’s like this crazy roller coaster, I don’t even know what to expect tomorrow. Finding out the day after my birthday that it got picked up was like the biggest present I could have asked for. Everything around that has been very cool and exciting.
Linda: Speaking of what’s coming up, is there any future projects you’d like to talk about?
Mary: Of course Cobra Kai Season 2 very soon. I have an episode with a show called Room 104 on HBO. I don’t know the air date of it yet. I’m waiting to hear but, it will be sometime soon.
Linda: That’s really awesome, I watch that show!
Mary: Oh really?!
Linda: I love it! I can’t wait to see your episode. It’s gonna be really cool!
Mary: Oh, I’m so glad. Thank you.
Linda: You’re welcome and thank you for taking time out to speak with me. I’d like to wish you a happy belated birthday. It’s been a pleasure.
Mary: Thank you, you as well.