Thirty-six years ago one of the most beloved movies of all times made its mark on audiences everywhere. Now, years later, the magic of “The Karate Kid” films continues with the drama series, “Cobra Kai,” and a new era of fans are falling in love all over again.
Actress Mary Mouser, known for her work on TV shows such as “Body of Proof,” “Scandal,” and “CSI,” portrays Samantha, the daughter of Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio). In a twist of fate, Samantha is now reliving her dad’s rivalry with the Cobra Kai dojo.
Despite the fact that Mary, an Arkansas native, is kicking ass on screen, once the cameras stop rolling, she and her fellow “Cobra Kai” actors truly enjoy spending time with one another.
“Over the last couple of years, we really developed an intense friendship having all these fight scenes with each other,” Mary explains. “We are a very tight-knit group; for me, this has been the show of a lifetime.”
Making the transition from child star to adult actress, Mary has built an impressive resume along the way. In addition to her career on-screen, she’s also pursuing a college degree in deaf culture and American Sign Language. She describes herself as someone who likes having things planned out, but admits once acting took center stage she had to readjust the expectations she placed on herself.
“I’m on the slow track, which has been an adjustment, but I’m pursuing college because I enjoy it, and at this point I have something I really want to learn about,” says Mary.
Dedicated to the things she’s passionate about, the talented actress gave us an exclusive look into the world of “Cobra Kai” (the third season was just released on January 1st on Netflix!), as well as revealed what life has been like living with Type 1 diabetes and how she’s using her platform to raise and spread awareness.
When you auditioned for “Cobra Kai,” you had never watched any of “The Karate Kid” films. What did you think once you did?
I think waiting was cool because when I did watch them, not only was I seeing this childhood and lifelong favorite of so many people—my boyfriend especially—I was seeing this film everyone loves and was also getting to see it through a different lens. The whole time my boyfriend was like, ‘That’s your dad now, that’s your family,’ and I was thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, this is the idea of watching family movies. These are like her family stories, and I became completely obsessed.
I love when I come home from a day on set filming in, say, the replication of Miyagi’s house, and then sit down and watch the scene where Daniel’s blowing out his candles in Miyagi’s house. I totally get why the mania for it has lasted so long and now count myself as a fan girl. I joined the party late, but I’m a strong supporter.
What is it about “Cobra Kai” that has fans hooked?
Once I sat down and watched the movies, there was such magic and a very real but un-realness to it that made me feel anything was possible. I think the writers and creators have done such a great job bringing that to this show for the new audience era.
My favorite aspect about the show is how there are so many different perspectives. There are different characters and stories, so you can be watching the same show and have a completely opposite opinion of who the ultimate villain is, who the real good guy is, and why you identify with Hawk, or Moon, or whoever it is. That’s something I look for in a show—caring about the characters like they’re real people. The creators and my co-workers/cast do a great job of creating individual people you want to root for even when you don’t know why you want to root for them.
What do you love about “Cobra Kai”?
I think it’s cool how the changing of times has allowed for female karate kids to step in. Getting to bring that to this generation has been fun and also a challenge because I was someone who had never worked out before. Now, taking on the role of being the Karate Kid’s daughter, expected to know what eight years of karate looks like, I take a lot of pride in that.
How would you describe Samantha?
For some people she is the villain and that’s kind of cool because I’ve never been the villain before, but I don’t see it that way. I see Samantha as somebody who, like the rest of us, doesn’t know what the end of the path looks like but she’s struggling to get to that thing, whether it’s romantically, in her relationship with her dad, or her relationship with karate.
“Cobra Kai” differs from “The Karate Kid” films but stays true to confronting important issues. What are some of your favorite life lessons the show has tackled?[One is] the moment on the beach with Samantha and Miguel, where he sees her with Robby and gets really jealous. He’s drunk and tries to push Robby, but Samantha steps in the way and basically gets clotheslined. When I read that, I got nervous and thought this sounded a bit like an after-school [special], like are we going to talk about this for real—being hit by a guy? They made it very clear it was a completely wrong place-wrong time sort of situation, but it was still important to me to be honest on how that would make me feel.
Outside of my own character, I really love the arc of Hawk. It’s an important story that this show does such a great job of telling. It’s not just about bullying or what that looks like, but understanding how somebody becomes a bully. If we can understand the makings of one, we can hopefully un-make the bully and progress in the other direction.
Season two ended with a dangerous brawl. What are the ramifications for these characters going into season three?
Every single person is hanging in their own balance—or lack of balance. There’s physical recovery for a lot of the characters, even Samantha didn’t come out of the fight unscathed. It was a big brawl, and in terms of Samantha—as a girl in a big fight—that has a different connotation to it than if she was a boy.
There’s levels of confusion internally, pain, pride, and all of these different things that the characters are left trying to cope with and to find a new path forward. [There will be] a whole lot of recovery in all sorts of ways and so many cool aspects that everybody will get to tap in to. I think there is something for everybody, and through the healing process you’ll probably find who your person is.
Many fans might not know that you’ve been living with Type 1 diabetes for almost 12 years. How do you stay on top of your health, especially working long hours on set?
It seems like I should have it all figured out but the body is constantly aging and changing, and diabetes is constantly changing. I was diagnosed at 13 years old, which is a very different body composition than age 23 and 24, so it’s been a lot of learning.
With this show, specifically, there is a lot of physical activity that involves both adrenaline, which makes my blood sugar go up, and exertion of my energy, which makes it go down, so there’s been a lot of juggling. The best thing I’ve learned is there is no such thing as a bad day. I take my health and my diabetes very serious; I want to have it work with me and for me. It’s my top priority because I can’t do my job if I’m not in a good physical state.
The funniest aspect of figuring out diabetes and acting is when I’m wearing my insulin pump and figuring out how to hide it—that’s always a fun game. Where are we going to creatively put this so I can still do whatever physical activity I need to do? I have such great relationships with our crew that if I feel myself going low or high, I can look across the way and find one of our amazing production assistants or assistant directors and ask someone to bring my backpack and they know what that means.
What message do you want to share with other young people living with Type 1 diabetes?
The most up-in-the-air thing for me when I was diagnosed was, ‘What now?’ So I definitely want to say there are so many people who are successful in their fields and have wonderful, full, long, and happy lives and also have Type 1 diabetes; it’s just another aspect of their personality.
There are days when I just don’t want to have diabetes. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way; I still have it, and I still have to do all the things I’m supposed to, but I give myself a little mental vacation. Diabetes is not easy, but it’s doable and has taught me a lot about myself.
From a professional standpoint, what does your future look like?
When I picture my future, I just hope I’m old and gray and struggling to get from the makeup trailer to set and everybody is just ushering me along…that’s my goal!
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