Ken Barefield interview: ‘Cobra Kai’ stunt coordinator
“I’m super proud of my team and the actors. We don’t have any special effects, we don’t have any CGI,” reveals stunt coordinator Ken Barefield about the innovative stunt work on the Netflix blockbuster “Cobra Kai.” For our recent webchat he adds, “we don’t clean up any of our fights with any CGI; what you see is what you see,” he say, noting that “it’s a proud moment for us to be able to go practical.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Netflix blockbuster “Cobra Kai” revisits old rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) 30 years after the original 1984 Oscar-nominated classic “The Karate Kid.” While the series’ first two seasons flew under the radar on YouTube’s premium service, it developed a loyal fan-base who relished reliving the decades-long feud between Johnny and Daniel as they fostered a new generation competing for All Valley karate supremacy. The series catapulted into a bona fide pop culture phenomenon when Netflix picked up the series in 2020, becoming the most-watched series on the platform. “Cobra Kai” also became a critical darling, with its third season scoring four Emmy nominations last year (including for Best Comedy Series).
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Season 4 kicked off where the third season ended, as Johnny and Daniel finally come together to take down the nefarious Kreese (Martin Kove, also reprising his role from the original film), Lawrence’s old sensei, who has taken over Johnny’s Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny’s former karate prodigy Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) has recovered from his season 3 back injury, while Robby (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s estranged son, has turned his back on Daniel, joining forces with the Kreese. The plot thickens as the regular cast expands, with new kid Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young), fan-fave duo Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) and Demetri (Gianni DeCenzo), LaRusso teenagers Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Anthony (Griffin Santopietro) and Sam’s arch-rival Tory (Peyton List) joining the fray as series regulars. Old grudges, blood, sweat, tears and an enthralling All-Valley Karate Tournament that dominates the last two episodes of the season build towards a thrilling conclusion as Kreese is shockingly usurped by an even greater threat, Kreese’s former right-hand man, the diabolical Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith, also a new series regular this season, who reprises his role from the 1989 second sequel “The Karate Kid, Part III”).
Barefield took over as stunt coordinator from the outset of Season 4, taking the reins from Emmy-nominated husband and wife team of Hiro Koda and Janel Kurfman. Barefield, who has worked as a stunt double since the show’s first season, was thrilled with his promotion as the lead supervisor on the stunt-heavy show. “It’s big shoes to fill, but I was very blessed and fortunate enough to be there since day one and knowing how everything was shot, season one through three,” he admits. “I knew the algorithm to it if you will, but what I wanted to do coming into season four and five and then ultimately six, is I wanted to make sure that I brought in fresh blood and change it up,” he says. “It was about bringing in fresh blood, but also making sure that I took where we left off in Season 3 and making sure that the bar was raised for Season 4 and then that bar raising again for Season 5.”