Jacob Bertrand On Cobra Kai Season 5, New Champion Lineup And More - Exclusive Interview

Even though he's only in his early 20s, Jacob Bertrand has managed to rack up an extensive roster of screen credits. That's not surprising, given that his TV Guide bio noted that he landed his first role — in an Oscar Meyer wiener commercial — when he was just five. Since then, according to IMDb, this talented actor has appeared in numerous films and TV series, ranging from such television shows as "Homeschooled," "Parks and Recreation," and "Community," to movies including "Ready Player One" and "Rise of the Guardians."

These days, Bertrand is best known for playing Eli "Hawk" Moskowitz in "Cobra Kai," the hit Netflix series that continues the saga of "The Karate Kid" more than three decades after the classic 1984 crowd-pleaser was released. 

In an exclusive interview with The List, Bertrand discusses his involvement with Champion's new "Cobra Kai" collection, hints at what's ahead for his character in the upcoming fifth season of "Cobra Kai," and what it's been like to be part of a bona fide pop-culture juggernaut.

Jacob Bertrand is excited about Champion's new Cobra Kai collection

What can you tell me about the partnership with Champion? How did that come about? How did you get involved?

I'm the best fighter on the show, so they wanted me. No, no, they approached me and they had this really cool collab idea with "Cobra Kai," and they wanted to give people the ability to dress like they're their own All-Valley champ. I thought it was super cool. I really loved all the Miyagi-Do stuff. I like wearing all white. It was pretty sick. The Cobra Kai joggers are pretty sweet. They came to me and were like, "Hey, we'd love to partner with you for this, and you could do some cool videos." I was like, "Yeah. This is awesome." I love Champion stuff. It was pretty fun.

What's your favorite piece in the collection?

I have to pick and choose because I like the Miyagi-Do hoodie the most, but I really like the Cobra Kai joggers from the Cobra Kai side. I'd mix and match. I probably wouldn't wear them together, but I'd mix and match.

Have you worn them out in public yet?

I've worn the hoodie out in public, but I haven't worn the joggers yet. That's something I lounge in.

If you wear the "Cobra Kai" Champion gear, does that draw attention? Do people recognize you even quicker than they would ordinarily?

You know what's funny? I was out at lunch and I had this guy come up to me and he was like, "Oh dude, that's a really cool hoodie." He looked up [at] my face and was like, "Wait. What?" I laughed and I was like, "Oh yeah. What's up, man?" He was like, "Oh [crap]. That's crazy. Oh my God." He actually asked, "Dude, I want this hoodie. Where can I get it?" I was like, "Oh, I need you to go Champion.com. I think it's up right now." He was like, "That's awesome." It was pretty funny.

You'll probably have more encounters like that.

Yeah, I know. It was pretty funny. He really came up for the hoodie and then looked up from the Miyagi-Do hoodie, and then looked up [at] my face and was like, "Oh wait. What?"

Jacob Bertrand teases the upcoming season of Cobra Kai

Now, fans are pretty stoked about the upcoming season of "Cobra Kai." What can you share about it?

Oh gosh. What can I say without getting fired? There's lots of cool fights. Johnny has probably one of the coolest story lines of any season, in my opinion. I'm really excited for people to see his story arc. It is really cool, and there is ... This is what I can say. There's a move in a fight that I had to practice for, like, two weeks because ... It's crazy kicks and it was really hard to get down. I'm excited for people see that.

Is there anything specifically for Hawk this season in terms of his journey that people can look forward to?

Shoot. I don't know if I can [say] anything without spoiling anything. I don't know — I take my shirt off a lot. I can say that. Yeah. That's something I can safely say: my shirt will come off at some point.

The cast of Cobra Kai are constantly immersed in martial arts

A few years back, I used to interview the cast of "Glee" and they would always point out that, yes, we have to act in the show and we have to do all the things that people normally do on a TV series, but we also have to learn a new musical number and record it and sing it and learn all the choreography. It struck me that [it's] similar to what guys have to do on "Cobra Kai," where you have to learn all the fight scenes and the choreography from all that in addition to the acting you would normally do on a TV show. Is that a fair thing to say?

Yeah, I definitely see that. Whenever we're not filming, we're training. We're out in Atlanta. We do get time on weekends and stuff, but they really make it a point that whenever we're not filming, we're in the dojo training. Sometimes, it's not even learning choreography. It's strength conditioning, doing a lot of cardio so that on the day when we have to fight and do take after take, we're not getting too crazy winded. We do have stunt doubles, but the goal on the show has been ... we want to be able to do as much as we can, as the actors.

In my opinion, it looks better because I'd much rather take a fall and you get to see my face the entire time as I'm falling, then they have to cut to the back of my head because I don't know how to do it and the stunt person has to do it. They're really good about training us and making sure we feel really safe. It is a lot of work, actually having to learn everything. Me and Tanner [Buchanan] had to learn our huge Season 4 fight in a day because everything was super rushed.

Jacob Bertrand didn't have much of a martial arts background prior to Cobra Kai

How much of a martial arts background did you have before you were cast in the show?

I did a couple years of karate in elementary school growing up, but that didn't really help at all. I completely forgot everything except for up-block. I didn't really have much experience going in.

How did they prepare you? Was there like a crash course, like a boot camp type of thing that you had to do to get ready for it?

They started us off like we were six-year-olds in a karate class. We started learning the basics before we went out there. We trained with [seventh degree black belt and stunt performer] Simon Rhee. He's from "Best of the Best." He's a really awesome martial arts instructor, and he would get us ready before every season because we'd have a year break in between, and I'm not the best at keeping up with my studies. We would go in for a couple months before we'd go to Atlanta and shoot and we'd all train in Burbank — me, Xolo [Maridueña], Mary [Mouser], Tanner [Buchanan], Gianni [DiCenzo]. Even Billy [Zabka] and Marty [Kove] would train.

Jacob Bertrand has had mixed feelings about Hawk's turn from the dark side

I had read that you weren't initially on board with Hawk's change of heart and the way his character development suddenly shifted. How are you feeling about it now?

I love it. The main thing that came from that is I loved playing the villain so much. I was sad to have to ditch the villain cape for the good guy shoes, but it's super fun. The writers are so smart and they see a hundred miles ahead. They totally know what they're doing and I'm super on board with getting to win a tournament. That's super fun.

What about the fan response to that whole situation? What have you heard about that?

Oh my God. That's like the main thing that people come up to me about. They're like, "Oh my gosh. I stood up and I was cheering when you switched sides and shaved Demetri." That's something that ... you hear about it, it's like, "Yeah, you know you're going to break Demetri's arm, you're going to send Brucks to the hospital, and at the great end, you're going to switch sides and save the day." I was like, "Oh, really? Aren't they going to hate me?" They're like, "Yes, but we're going to make it work," and I was like, "OK, I guess." [At the] beginning of season four, they hashed all that stuff out. It was a great little arc for my character. Like I was saying, they see it a hundred miles ahead.

Cobra Kai's Jacob Bertrand on what it's been like to be part of a pop-culture phenomenon

The show itself has had this really interesting journey starting off on YouTube and then moving to Netflix. Did you ever expect that it was going to become as big as it has?

Xolo [Maridueña] and I used to joke about it going Netflix. He'd be like, "Ha ha ha. Wouldn't that be hilarious?" And then it actually did. We're like, "Oh shoot." Over the pandemic, it started blowing up. We're like, "Wait, what the heck is happening?" It had its core little fan group on YouTube, and the show was doing really well, but it wasn't on the scale that it is now. I don't think anyone expected that.

It seemed like the move to Netflix really sort of made the show jump from what it was to the pop-culture phenomenon that it's become.

Yeah. It's sweet. Now we go to Comic-Cons and meet fans and stuff. It has become pop culture-y.

What's that been like for you to experience that, to be part of something so popular?

The show blew up over the pandemic and just like everyone, I wasn't really going out too much. I didn't experience it too much. Now, starting to go out more, eating out, the guy recognized me with the Miyagi-Do hoodie. It's getting more and more frequent, but I got to say all the fans are usually really cool. It's usually like a son and dad, and they're both like, "Oh, we love Hawk." And the mom's like, "I hated your character. You were so evil. Oh my goodness."

The fifth season of "Cobra Kai" is scheduled to debut in fall 2022; more information about Champion's full collection of custom athleticwear inspired by season four of "Cobra Kai" can be found right here.