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Thomas Ian Griffith is right there with Cobra Kai fans: He can’t believe Terry Silver is back — and he is also loving every minute of the diabolical Karate Kid villain’s return.
The popular Netflix series dropped its fourth season on New Year’s Eve and within days, it was among the top titles on the platform globally, per the streaming giant’s own metrics.
Among the newest series cast members, Griffith is reprising his antagonist introduced in 1989’s Karate Kid Part III. And just like in that film, Terry Silver is here to make Daniel LaRusso’s life hell.
Although Part III was not as well-received as the previous two movies in the series, and star Ralph Macchio was critical of the final product upon release, Griffith told The Hollywood Reporter that he had a great time making the picture and takes pride in his performance — even though he is the first to admit the character’s original incarnation was thin.
But, that was the valley then, and this is the valley now. And in the valley now, Griffith is getting a second bite at the Terry Silver apple — and he is making it count with a newly-constructed complex character, who’s already shot to the top of fans’ most loathed list. And Griffith teases the ride is going to get even wilder.
Congrats on the massive success of season four. What has the response been like for you this past week?
It’s been surreal. I am amazed that so many people are Terry Silver fans. Even from that first little teaser that Netflix put out, I was shocked. It has been a ride and so fulfilling to take a character from the first film I ever did and bring him back all these years later. It was an archetypal two-dimension over-the-top character and all of a sudden he’s this complex, multidimensional character.
Ralph has been critical of Part III — but loves that it gave Cobra Kai Terry Silver. What are your feelings about the 1989 installment?
For me, I had just come to L.A. from New York, and [the late director] John Avildsen took a chance on an unknown actor. It is by no means a great film, but even to this day, I am proud of my work because I was brave enough not to hold back. Avildsen kept pushing me to go for it. And that was a risky thing to do as an actor going into a project that was already established. For me, it was a positive experience, but I didn’t carry the weight of the prior films. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t, but I had the balls to just go for it, which I give myself credit for.
I had not looked at the film for so long, but it was recently on TV and my wife said, “We have to watch it!” And I said, “No, we don’t.” But we did, and it was like, Oh, there were dimensions and levels with that manipulative charm that I got to lock into all these years later. There were also a few things where it was like, if that is what they chose to put into the film, imagine what the outtakes were like! (Laughs.)
Had you continued your martial arts studies all these years, or was there some rust when you came back for Cobra Kai?
I have been a martial artist my whole life and that has just continued to evolve. It is a part of who I am. It is my therapy. So when the creators asked me initially, “Are you in shape?” I said, “That won’t be a problem.” But then you go on set, and I am looking at the stunt double, and I am thinking, “I kick so much faster than that.” So I am jumping up, volunteering. What I didn’t take into consideration is I am going to be doing this 10 hours a day now. So believe me, I am sitting in an Epsom salt bath that night going, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” (Laughs.)
One of Terry’s first scenes is the hilarious explanation of his bombastic, erratic behavior in Karate Kid III, poking fun at some silly moments. Were you nervous to revisit the character initially due to the lack of depth?
I was really on the fence about going back to the same character. I had reservations, but the creators [Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald and Hayden Schlossberg] had mapped out a path for this guy. They answered all the questions I had, like, “Why was he the way he was? What makes him tick? What has he been doing these past 30 years?” That was all part of their explanation and so appealing. Also, we were all in on the joke of a billionaire then and now walking away from his world to go back into the karate world in the San Fernando Valley.
He is a super-smart guy, Terry Silver. And he has tried to build a life with all the beautiful distractions; the music, all the great art in his house by the water. He is trying to keep that inner demon in control — and then Kreese (Martin Kove) comes back and brings it out of him. Then, it is all-consuming again.
You may hate Terry, but you want to watch him because I think there are sprinkles of truth in his madness. And I think that is why people enjoy him on a visceral level.
How wild was it working with Ralph and Martin Kove again, on a Karate Kid project no less?
That first day, walking on set, Ralph is standing there, and I had not seen him since Karate Kid III. So we were just standing there, looking at each other, smiling. It was a good feeling. And he said they were so appreciative, it was a gift, and we’re going to have a ball.
Any little hint of what’s to come in season five?
You’re going to see the next level of Terry Silver. It is like what the creators say, “What if Terry had won the All Valley Karate Tournament in 1989?” So we’ll explore that — and it is fascinating.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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