Courageous Nerd caught up with Gianni DeCenzo to chat about Cobra Kai Season 4, Demetri and the immense worldwide fan support for the show.
Cobra Kai fans know and love Gianni DeCenzo as Demetri Alexopoulous. Once an archetypal nerdy figure, Demetri has since become a proficient fighter under Daniel LaRusso’s (Ralph Macchio) training and a far cry from his Season 1 self.
We caught up with Gianni DeCenzo to chat about Season 4, how Demetri has grown over the series so far and well as so much more. In addition, feel free to check out the video version on our YouTube channel, linked below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
WARNING: Season 4 Spoilers are below!
A lot has happened since our last interview in 2021. What have you been up to since the Summer?
Gianni DeCenzo (GD): It has been a long time. Well, we filmed Season 4 and Season 5. I think those went off without a hitch. Season 4 came out. Yeah, I’m really excited with the response it’s been getting. People love it! I’m super happy because this has been one of my favourite seasons to film, I’m doing so much Karate. It’s one of my favourite things to do on the show. So, it’s awesome to actually get to be a part of that.
With Cobra Kai Season 4 now streaming, how have you found the intense fan reaction to the show?
Gianni DeCenzo: It’s been crazy. Not only that Season 4 is #1, but the rest of the seasons are also all in the Top 10. There are people just starting out and watching the entire series. We have our longtime watchers coming in for the 4th season. It’s been a crazy positive response. I’ve been getting a lot more followers on Instagram, which is awesome.
I love getting to meet new people and see their comments. I’ll see their DMs and sometimes I DM them back. It’s so nice to have such a great community of people enjoy something as much as I enjoy making it.
It’s a great feeling. I honestly never thought, going into this when I was 8 that I’d get to this point. Or, that people would actually watch something I was a part of. I was like, “Oh, this is interesting, okay. Let’s do this!” Yeah, it’s crazy.
The show’s #1 on Netflix as of when we’re doing this interview. How different does the Netflix-era feel compared to the show’s early days on YouTube Premium?
Gianni DeCenzo: It’s crazy because I feel Netflix has a lot bigger of an outreach. Everyone has Netflix. I feel that the show is getting the audience it deserves. The creators [Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg] work so hard to make something that people can watch and enjoy. They work so hard to make the original Karate Kid into something completely new.
The fact that they finally get the appreciation, we couldn’t be happier. It was a bit of a weird time when YouTube stepped away from scripted TV series. [The creators] were like, “Oh, where are we going to go?” Netflix was like, “Okay, we’ll take you” and we were like, “Okay!” It worked out. When one door closes, another one opens. That’s kind of been my experience with the entire industry.
In Season 4, we see Demetri finally has his best friend – Eli/Hawk – with him once again. Could you discuss how yourself and Jacob Bertrand have developed the characters’ dynamic throughout the seasons?
Gianni DeCenzo: I’ve always liked Jacob and Xolo [Mariduena, who plays Miguel]. We’ve always hung out. They actually got me into Magic: The Gathering and kick my ass all the time. I’ll beat them eventually.
We’ve always hung out and never had any issues. He’s certainly never broken my arm in real life. They’re just awesome to work with, man. They really give me a lot to work off of. It’s super important in intense scenes, you know. You need a strong partner. I think it’s safe to say that everyone on the show is strong. Yeah, it’s great.
Early on in the show, Demetri was not at all interested in Karate. However, it’s indisputably changed his life – positively and negatively. Do you think Demetri is more open to trying new things, compared to Season 1?
Gianni DeCenzo: When Eli gets his head shaved and doesn’t want to join Karate anymore… that moment where Demetri’s like, “You pushed me out of my comfort zone to do this.” I think that’s really awesome. [Eli] inadvertently pushes Demetri to become more confident in who he is, through Karate.
I definitely think this Karate stuff has really made Demetri realise that he doesn’t need to play the long game. He can be confident in who he is now. He can get the popular girl, have a bunch of friends, defend himself. I think that’s really important for anyone, for life in general. You can just be confident in who you are.
I love that no matter how good Demetri gets at Karate, he never compromises who he is as a person. He’s the nerd, that’s who he is. He’ll get better at Karate over time and maybe get a little more popular along the way. Who knows? He’ll always stay the same and I love that.
In our last interview, you mentioned that your Dad was a huge Karate Kid fan. With that in mind, how excited was he (and others in your life) that Thomas Ian Griffith came back as Terry Silver as well as Kenny (Dallas Young) mirroring Daniel’s storyline from the first film?
Gianni DeCenzo: It was fun to show him around the set a couple of times. He and my Mom help me so much. They help me read scripts, work on it, stuff like that. They get the spoilers and he sits there going, “Woah! Terry Silver, oh my God!” It’s just super cool to share that with him. He definitely fanboys a little bit. That’s really awesome that I get to share that with him and my Mom.
[With Kenny], it’s really interesting because it’s like in DC Comics, a bizarro Daniel LaRusso. The same sort of plot down a very different route. It shows you what could have been in the original Karate Kid. It sucks because Kenny is a good kid. He’s played by Dallas, who’s super awesome.
The character’s a good kid who’s kind of lost. It shows how easy you can go down the wrong side without the proper tutelage, I guess you would call it. Who knows what will happen with the Kenny character in later seasons?
Demetri is now one of the longer-serving Miyagi-Do members. How would you describe working with the other actors in that ‘Dojo’ – Ralph Macchio, Mary Mouser, Khalil Everage, Nate Oh – who have been there alongside you?
Gianni DeCenzo: I have all their numbers, we text all the time. I actually made a Minecraft realm with some people. It was a hardcore realm. Someone – not to put anyone out there – they kept dying…. Nate. So, we had to change it to a normal, survival realm. It’s been going pretty good and super fun to work with people you’ve become friends with over time.
Acting itself is fun and I’ll always want to do it. To actually have people who I enjoy working with is a whole other level. It makes it an awesome environment. I haven’t been on a set this fun before, it’s great.
Season 4 definitely left some cliffhangers to ponder over – and Season 5 has already wrapped. What, if anything, can you say about where Demetri’s headed?
Gianni DeCenzo: It’s tough to say, a hard thing to balance – exactly what Daniel’s teaching us. I’ll just say, if you thought Season 4 was crazy, there’s a lot in Season 5. You’re definitely not going to want to miss out on it. If you haven;t seen the series in its entirety, you gotta go watch it from the beginning.
It’s one of those things, you can’t start halfway through or pick up in the middle. You’ve got to sit through the whole story. It’s going to be crazy. That’s the most I can give away without them hunting me down and kicking the s**t out of me.
Although the year has just begun, what would you like to accomplish with the rest of 2022?
Gianni DeCenzo: I recently started taking piano classes. I know it’s a little late in the game to start doing that but I’ve got long fingers. I can plonk out a couple of keys. There are some projects in the future that are in the works. I’m looking into those. So, stay tuned for that.
Then, I think just work on myself. Stay in acting class. I think that’s one of the most important things you can do as an actor. You can never stop growing. Take film classes, because I eventually want to make my own movies and TV shows. Lot of working on myself this year.
Lastly, if you could say something to fans of Cobra Kai around the world, what would it be?
Gianni DeCenzo: Just thank you so much for your support. We wouldn’t have this show without you guys. Like I said, it really is so fun to make something that people love watching. It makes it so much more worth it. I really do think we have an amazing fanbase. They love making fan art, posting it online and tagging me in it.
It’s so awesome to see them embrace something I get to be a part of. I’m so thankful, so thank you, everyone!