Peyton List (L) and Thomas Ian Giffith can be seen in "Cobra Kai" Season 5. Photo by Netflix
NEW YORK, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Thomas Ian Griffith says his Cobra Kai character, Terry Silver, still is a villain in Season 5 of the Karate Kid sequel series.
"Season 5 is literally the world rising up against Terry," the 60-year-old actor told reporters in a recent Zoom interview about the Army veteran, philanthropist sensei he plays in Netflix's action-drama.
"I had no interest in just repeating a character. If you bring back the Terry Silver from Karate Kid III, where are you going to go?" he asked rhetorically.
"We gave him a lot of complexity in Season 4. You saw his resistance. You saw where he was coming from. You got to understand what he has been doing for the last 30 years."
Terry is a man who started out with the best of intentions, but his life experiences turned him into a baddie, Griffith said.
"Then you slowly see these elements go against him with betrayal and manipulation and people not accepting him because of his past," he said.
"It's a little more refined than what we had seen [in Karate Kid III.] He's not maniacal. There's madness, but in that madness, we have those little bits of truth that I think people can go, 'Yeah, he has a point,' and we can sort of be on his side.
"He still has that quality, which I think is what makes him Terry Silver -- that glee to say, 'If it's a challenge, if it's a worthy adversary, bring it on.' Love him or hate him, you've got to watch him."
Season 5, which as of Thursday afternoon had a 100% positive rating among critics on RottenTomatoes.com, will be available to stream in its entirety Friday.
The latest episodes show Terry using his money and influence to start several more ruthless Cobra Kai dojos.
The move pits him against his rival senseis, Johnny (William Zabka), and Daniel (Ralph Macchio), as well as their students, who are seeking balance and look at karate as a means to defend themselves, not to bully other teens the way Cobra Kai students do.
Although Griffith's Karate Kid III co-star Sean Kanan reprises his role of Mike Barnes this season, too, the characters don't have much screen time together.
"I thought the creators twisted up that backstory to be unexpected, and I think Sean did an incredible job," Griffith said.
"The writing was so smart. It means so much to the fans to bring back the OG crowd. I don't know if they are in the same place character-wise, if Barnes would fit into Terry's world, which I'm glad they didn't try to force to make happen."
The 1989 film was divisive among franchise fans and the critics who reviewed it. Macchio has publicly admitted he didn't like the movie.
But while Griffith acknowledged it wasn't a great movie, he said he was proud of his commitment and performance. He also has positive memories of the experience because it was his first big acting job and he got to work with the late director John G. Avildsen, whose credits included Rocky and the first two Karate Kid blockbusters.
"They were rewriting it because they had lost Kreese (Martin Kove), and [screenwriter] Robert Kamen was thinking he had to create a villain that was badder than Kreese, so it's this over-the-top thing," Griffith recalled of making Karate Kid III.
"I'm a Vietnam vet, and there was no way I could have been in Vietnam, and then they're going: 'Don't worry about it! We're just going to throw you into it!' And then it's like, 'Is this a little much?' And Avildsen was like: 'This is the humor of this character. This is going to drive that new life into the franchise.' I was like, 'OK, I'm going for it!'"
Griffith joked that if this was the footage Avildsen actually used for the film, one can only imagine what was left on the cutting room floor.
"What the hell was I doing? Thank God I was on cocaine back then because how do you explain that?" he said.
"Again, being a New York stage actor, if the director says it, I'm going for it, so I don't have those bad feelings a lot of people have about it. I know Ralph goes, 'I hated it!' I'm like, 'Well, I'm in a different place.'"
The actor said it has been fun delving into the psyche of a controversial character and seeing what viewers think of him now.
"That makes Terry Silver in Cobra Kai -- in this goofy, ridiculous world -- a very fascinating, watchable character," he said.
While stunt performers are used for the most challenging martial arts feats, Griffith, Macchio and Zabka are all in fantastic physical shape and move convincingly on screen.
Griffith said the training helps him feel young and strong, even if he can't do everything he used to be able to do in his 20s or even 40s.
"Get out there and move! Get out there for mental health, for physical health," he said.
"I live my life like that. I started martial arts as a kid. It got me out of trouble and it has been my go-to my whole life. People say, 'Do you still practice karate?' I don't even know what that means. It's just a part of who you are. You have to get out there and express yourself in that way and you are constantly learning and evolving."
Cobra Kai also stars Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Tanner Buchanan, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand, Gianni DeCenzo, Peyton List, Vanessa Rubio, Yuji Okumoto and Dallas Dupree Young.
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