Cobra Kai actor Nate Oh (“Nate”) chatted about the recently released Season 4, his character’s progression and hopes for future storylines.
We recently spoke to Cobra Kai cast member Nate Oh! Nate discussed how his own life has changed since joining the show, which Sensei he’d like in real life and how having a real-life martial arts background impacts the Karate on Cobra Kai.
Read on for Nate’s interview with Courageous Nerd. Or, alternatively, check out the video version on our YouTube channel, linked below.
You’ve played Nate on Cobra Kai from almost the very beginning. How much has landing this role changed your life?
Nate Oh (NO): I’m sure a lot of people know about this, I’ve said it a lot. This was actually the first job I’ve ever had in anything. I’ve never been in the background of any other show. I’ve never done any other auditions for anything else. This was kind of like an accident.
I didn’t even want to be an actor until I landed this job. Now, this is what I’m going to do. It’s what I want to do. It really changed my path, I guess.
Although Nate (and several other characters) are initially Karate novices, did you have any martial arts background prior to Cobra Kai?
NO: I didn’t do Karate specifically but I did a Korean martial art called Tae-Kwon-Do. It’s pretty similar to Karate, I guess. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I can’t remember when I started, but it’s been a really long time. I’m a black belt 2nd degree right now. I haven’t been able to get further just because of COVID.
It’s really fun to learn Karate with them. It’s like the same thing, kind of, but they call it something different. The way we do Karate on the show is more like dancing. You’re not actually hitting the other person. It’s all choreographed and we have an excellent stunt team who plans out all the fights. You need to know when to block, what to block and make sure nobody gets hurt.
Season 4 was just released at the end of 2021 and it’s doing extremely well. Without giving anything too specific away, was there anything you were looking forward to seeing or for fans to see?
NO: The reception’s been crazy, it’s really fun to be able to say, “I was on this show.” People love this, by the way. They’ve really enjoyed it. Even before Season 4 came out, I had people asking me, “What’s going on in Season 5?”
When I first got to work with Dallas [Young], he plays Kenny on the show. I think that’s pretty early on in the season. It was huge to me and Owen Morgan (“Bert”) because we didn’t have any other kids to be working with. The rules are really strict for filming with kids. The adults or anybody over 18, they can just do whatever they want, pretty much.
The kids constantly have to run from school. You need at least 3 hours of school per day. It’s totally different when it’s me, Owen and another kid. Throughout the season, Oona [O’Brien] comes and Griffin [Santopietro] joins too. By the end of the season, it was so much fun having kids to talk to.
Being as young as you are, did you grow up watching several of your castmates – the likes of Peyton List (“Tory”), Jacob Bertrand (“Hawk/Eli” and Aedin Mincks (“Mitch”) on Disney Channel/Nickelodeon?
NO: Peyton List is probably a big one. She was in a few bigger Disney shows. I have a cousin and she was obsessed with Peyton. It was really fun for her to find out. She was younger at the time when I first came on the show. She didn’t know the names of the cast members or who Peyton List was. When she saw a picture of me and Peyton together, she completely freaked out.
It’s really fun to work with these people I grew up watching. A lot of people my age… watched these shows the most. A lot of people in my grade know her and Jacob. I think those specifically because we were around that age at the time those shows were filmed. I couldn’t even talk to them at first when I first saw them. It was terrifying even to say hello. Now, we’re all pretty close and I don’t have to worry.
Going back to the beginning of Cobra Kai, what were your expectations for your role? Did you know where your character was going or if you’d be around for longer than a cpuple of episodes?
NO: I definitely did not know anything about this when I first came on. I didn’t even know how the film industry even worked. Also, I didn’t think it was a huge deal for background to be bumped up to a cast member. I didn’t realise how rare that was or how big this show was going to be. Obviously, I didn’t know my future in it.
At the time, I didn’t even know how to read the scripts. There’s tons of information that I didn’t know. Gianni DeCenzo was a big help with us being Miyagi-Do together. He helped me and explained how everything worked.
They’re required to give everyone under 18 a teacher, so that was also a really big help. Owen, having such a similar story, he and his mom taught me a few things. Even though I didn’t know how far the show was going to go, I knew I wanted to do acting. That’s what I learned from those first few seasons.
As far as I know, you’re the only cast member who shares their character’s first name. Was that a coincidence, or did the producers decide to give the character your name?
NO: Now that, I actually don’t know. When I was background, they kept calling me back. Eventually, one day, they asked me to audition for it. When I went to the audition, I was the only person there. Maybe they had a character already planned out and just didn’t have a name for him yet. Then, when I came, they were like “Nate, that’s a cool name. I guess we’ll just use that.”
I’m not exactly sure how that situation came to be. It’s definitely very useful that my name is the same as my character’s. I don’t have to worry about people calling me my character’s name. That happens a lot. I noticed that Jacob – he has Hawk, Jacob and Eli. He has to be ready to respond to all 3, at any time. For me, any time somebody says “Hey, Nate!”, that’s not that hard, right?
From your own perspective, as Nate Oh the actor, would you prefer to have Daniel, Johnny or Kreese as your Sensei?
NO: I think everybody would say Johnny because he’s the coolest. Jump from rooftops when you’re with him. In reality, I don’t think I can handle that kind of stuff. I think I’d die and that wouldn’t be great for his Dojo. I think I’d probably have to go with [Daniel’s] Dojo, Miyagi-Do.
Assuming Nate returns for Season 5 and beyond, what ideas, if any, do you have for where the character should go?
NO: I just want to see where he goes with Miyagi-Do. Especially since Eagle Fang joined and he’s friends with Bert now, somehow. He’s friends with Hawk too, even after Hawk beat him up back in Season 3. I guess they’re friends now. So, it would be cool to see how all that plays out in the future.
What do you hope to accomplish in 2022?
NO: Oh yeah, it’s 2022 now. Hopefully, I can get somewhere with my auditions. I also have school to focus on, that’s been really hard to juggle. Definitely not fail school and at the same time, work on my acting career.
Lastly, if you could say anything to the Cobra Kai fans, what would it be?
NO: Season 5 is going to be really fun. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.