Young Kreese Is Key to ‘Cobra Kai’ Season 3

  • Throughout Cobra Kai Season 3, a series of flashback scenes show Sensei John Kreese in his younger days.
  • The scenes show Kreese working in a diner and eventually deploying in the Vietnam war.
  • Young Kreese is played by Barrett Carnahan, who bears a strong resemblance to longtime Kreese actor Martin Kove.

    Season 3 of Cobra Kai has a lot going on—and it decidedly casts a wider net than any season before. Part of that wider net includes a look into what makes one of the Karate Kid universe’s most reviling characters, Sensei John Kreese, tick. In doing that, the show takes us back to his youth, showing how he was treated when he worked in a diner, and, eventually, his deployment as a soldier in the Vietnam War. Throughout these flashbacks, he’s played by a 28-year-old actor named Barrett Carnahan. Carnahan only appears in 3 of the season’s 10 episodes, but his presence is felt throughout the whole season. By the time the season hits its big finale (setting things up for an even bigger season 4), viewers should feel like the know Kreese, and what makes him tick, more than ever before.

    In fact, Carnahan does such a good job at portraying a young version of Kreese that the original Kreese has been singing his praise.


    Martin Kove, who played Kreese in the original Karate Kid movies and now plays him again in Cobra Kai, spoke withEntertainment Weekly about working with his son, Jesse Kove. While talking about how he was on set while filming one of his son’s scenes (Jesse plays the jock bully who appears in the first Kreese flashback episode) he said that Carnahan “was terrific and looked just like me.”

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    While Cobra Kai is probably Carnahan’s first exposure to a whole new audience, it’s not his first rodeo on television. He had a recurring role on Netflix’s family-oriented sitcom Alexa & Katie, a recurring role as a villain in Nickelodeon’s series The Thundermans, and he appeared in two episodes of the Freeform Black-ish spinoff, Grown-ish. Among other roles, he’s also appeared in one-off episodes of shows you’ve heard of before, like Modern Family and Grey’s Anatomy.

    Carnahan also keeps active on Instagram. Not long after the Cobra Kai season 3 premiere, he shared a post about “the greatest day of work in [his] life,” where he discusses his first day working on the show, as a lifelong Karate Kid fan.

    Day 1 of work on @cobrakaiseries and lo and behold, @martinkove saunters in like the badass he is. “Damn he DOES look like me.”

    He continued in his caption, writing about working with Jesse Kove, creators Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald, and more.

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    He even shared behind-the-scenes footage of himself doing ADR work as the Cobra Kai team finished a scene up.

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    The Kreese flashbacks would seem to be wrapped up at the end of Season 3, but there’s always a chance that Season 4 could bring more. After all, the finale did bring us a hint of Terry Silver’s return—and based on how the Vietnam flashbacks played out, it seems like these two men might have a little bit more history for us to see.

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