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On Cobra Kai, John Kreese (Martin Kove) spends a lot of time staring down his students or his enemies, with his arms folded. Kreese doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but Kove does. He says Cobra Kai Season 5 was very emotional for him. 

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 5.]

'Cobra Kai' Season 5: John Kreese (Martin Kove) sits in his prison cell
Martin Kove | Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

Kove spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone on Aug. 23. Discussing some of the specific details of Cobra Kai Season 5, Kove explained why it was so emotional after nearly 40 years of playing Kreese. If you’ve seen Cobra Kai Season 5 on Netflix, check out Kove’s emotional take on the season.

Going to prison in ‘Cobra Kai’ Season 5 made Martin Kove emotional 

Kreese spends all of Cobra Kai Season 5 in prison, thanks to Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) framing him for assaulting Stingray (Paul Walter Hauser). Kreese is not the toughest guy in the joint, so he has to submit to some of the more hardened convicts. 

“It’s very emotional,” Kove said. “For me, it’s very emotional. The whole experience was very emotional, being in prison, doing the scenes there. He’s in prison. He has to make the best of it and everybody’s seen the trailer which is really funny where he says, ‘Kindness, you can get a lot of kindness here.’ Or he says, ‘If you can show kindness, it’s a virtue here in jail.’ And then you see him kicking ass. It’s very funny.”

John Kreese in therapy was emotional too 

Cobra Kai Season 5 also sees Kreese visit the prison therapist. He confronts people from his past, including a young Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and his childhood sweetheart Betsy (Emily Marie Palmer). Of course, Kreese doesn’t entirely use therapy for his own healing. 


‘Cobra Kai’: John Kreese Actor Martin Kove Wishes He Could ‘Be a Female Warrior Like Tory’

“If I had to write the next sequence of where he goes once he’s out, I would think I would have time to think about what I just heard from the psychologist,” Kove said. “That my essence of good, that you’re not all bad. You’re not all evil. He’s a misunderstood character. I only signed on to do this show if they would write texture to this character, write colors, write emotion, write vulnerability. As an actor, I enjoyed playing those much more than a one dimensional tough guy who’s charming and evil at the same time. Doesn’t interest me. It really doesn’t. What I like is high levels of emotion and vulnerability and I enjoy that more than anything else as an actor.”

John Kreese caused Martin Kove real-life emotional turmoil

The appearance by Betsy also made Kove reflect emotionally on his own relationships. Kove was married for 24 years to Vivienne Kove. He revealed that some of their troubles came from the impact of Kreese on the real-life Martin Kove. Kove played Kreese throughout the ‘80s in three Karate Kid films, before Cobra Kai

I’ve been married only once and you think about that a lot. You think about the good parts of what the relationship was about. I’m still very good friends with my ex-wife. We’re parents to our kids and our kids are just great kids and she’s a psychologist. She’s right there with her emotions and we’re very good friends so you think about the good parts. You always do that and I think about when I play that scene with Betsy, I had lots of notes about the good parts of my relationship when I was married. I was in a relationship that was breaking up because John Kreese, the identity of John Kreese, was unfortunately dominating a lot of my situation in the current relationship, feeling that his way was the only way and that was happening to Marty Kove as well. It just happens when you completely osmosis your character into your body for too long. I’ve seen it happen.

Martin Kove, interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 8/23/22