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‘Cobra Kai’ Star Xolo Maridueña On Rolling With Miguel’s Challenges And Tackling Representation In HBO Max’s ‘Blue Beetle’

(Plentiful SPOILERS from Cobra Kai Season 4 will be found below.)

Cobra Kai‘s fourth season delivered a knockout punch and left the warring dojos in dramatic disarray with plenty of mini-cliffhangers. In other words, The Karate Kid spinoff series will continue with an already-wrapped fifth season, and the character of Miguel, portrayed by Xolo Maridueña, has left the building, sort of. Mind you, Miguel hasn’t left the show; he simply decided to bolt in the middle of the All Valley Tournament, leaving Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) to defend Eagle Fang and Miyagi Do’s honor in the male division. And Miguel has, unexpectedly enough, headed down to Mexico, apparently because he needed to find his biological father in the middle of a karate throwdown.

Hey, it happens. Xolo is no stranger to seeing his character take unexpected detours, which have included fighting his way back to karate form after a particularly brutal high-school hallway battle. Of course, Miguel’s quite nearly a son to both William Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence and Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso. That’s yet more motivation for these two grown men to squabble, which is another reason why Miguel’s such a pivotal role in the series. Elsewhere, the 20-year-old actor’s preparing to star as Latino superhero Jamie Reyes in HBO Max’s Blue Beetle movie for the DC Universe.

Xolo was cool enough to talk with us about Miguel’s winding path and his challenges, past and future. Oh, and he’s very excited for Blue Beetle to happen.

Hey, Xolo. I am loving your shelves of memorabilia. What’s your favorite piece back there?

Umm, I have this one right here. [Points to a bottle.] You can’t really see it, but it’s a Coors Banquet right there. And I had the opportunity to film on the very last day of Season 5 filming, and they were passing them out, and Billy [Zabka] had a Coors Banquet, and he gave it to me, as like, “Here’s this gift!” I mean, it was empty. I didn’t drink any of it. He drank all of it!

Uh, of course he drank all of it!

And he gave me the empty bottle and I kept it because I’m a weirdo and a hoarder and hold sentimental value to everything. But I think it’s cool, it’s a little Coors Banquet from Johnny Lawrence, the man himself.

I just moved, so my Funkos are scattered, but you can see my Bucky Barnes.

Oh, nice!

It looks like you’ve got a Blue Beetle Funko over there?

They made one, it’s right there! They made like a whole line of them, I’m gonna show you [shoves Funko into camera]. So, because they did it for Dios la Muerte, it has some crazy looks, and they did a whole line of them, like with Joker, Batman, Harley Quinn.

Let’s start with Blue Beetle then. When that casting news came out, you said that your whole focus at that moment was that this is a Latino character, and that felt enormous to you.

That’s still something that’s at the forefront of my mind going into this, but I think the pressure that I once felt about how potentially big this can be to people come from where I come from, and even people who don’t come from where I come from but similar backgrounds, the reality is that I have to go into this project to have the most fun and make it the most authentic that I can make it. Because at the end of the day, that is gonna shine through with the already awesome writers that we have and the director that we have and the great stunt team that we have and the awesome visuals. I guess when you’re working with a studio of that caliber, all of that stuff is already gonna be great.

Warner Bros. ain’t no slouch when it comes to production values.

And getting to put some of myself into this and show kids out there that there’s someone that looks like them on camera that’s young, that’s the part I’m most excited about. It meant so much to me as a little kid to see someone who looked like me. With someone as simple as Manny from Modern Family, I was like, “Wow, this is so cool, getting to see this brown kid on camera, and it’s not the butt of the joke, and it’s not like the crazy drug cartel story, and these guys aren’t gangbangers.” It was like, “This is just a normal kid.” And I am just a normal kid, and that meant so much. And it was like a freaking comedy show on ABC or wherever it was on. I don’t think that was their intention, but that is my intention, and I don’t wanna get riled up over there, but I’m excited!

Speaking of representation, I was thinking about how Miguel had his accident…

[Laughs] Which one?

The big one, and Miguel was wheelchair-bound as a result. You obviously had no hand in writing this, but he was only wheelchair-bound for a few episodes.

I think the part, you know, that I wanted to tap into the most is that the circumstances of him being put into a wheelchair are very symbolic to the idea of being someone who is, honestly, I know there are a lot of politically correct terms, and I don’t want to use the wrong ones. Like, being someone who is not able to use their legs the way that they’d usually use them, I think that is very symbolic of Miguel having, truly at that point, having karate being the center of his universe. He is coming into a new school where he doesn’t know anyone. He has found his father figure, this role model who he idolizes in Johnny, and Johnny loves karate. So Miguel’s gonna learn to love karate just as much as Johnny does. And when that love that you have is, in a split moment, is just taken away from you, I think that was really like more of a mental block than a physical. I think, honestly, the physical aspect of it was a lot, at least as a character, was almost easier to deal with than the mental part of it. It really makes me fortunate to say that I have this ability to kind-of show representation, but I also maybe wish it was dealt a little differently? Maybe, I don’t know, with 10 episodes, you have to get through stuff so quickly, and I feel like with everything, you just have to keep the ball rolling, and sometimes, I wish there was more room for that.

Then it briefly seemed like Miguel’s injury recurred during the Season 4 All Valley Tournament. Did that feel like a “gotcha” moment to you?

You know what? The creators have done a really good job with, even when I feel like, “Awww, man, really? For real? Again?” They do a good job with surprising me and throwing things my way that are not only challenging as an actor and as someone who’s getting to portray a character for five years in a row, but things that are different and honestly, I’m like, “Damn, you guys are pretty smart because I would have never thought about what you guys are about to lead up to.” And because of that, even the accident in Season 2, I was like, “Me? Why not the other guy?” But all jokes aside, somehow they made it work and, somehow, even though I wasn’t able to do karate, people would root for Miguel. And now you’re rooting for everyone, and that’s the joyous part of the show, is that you really find yourself being attached to every single one of the characters.

I recently talked to Jacob [Bertrand, who plays Eli “Hawk” Moskowitz]. He said you guys are all super competitive about your characters. How far does it go?

That’s my brother! And I think there’s nothing like beating a sibling.

Oh yeah, ask my brother all about that feeling.

I think that Jacob and I have created this bond that is super special, and for that, we’re like, “We have a fight together! Who wins? I get the first point, and you get the second point.” And in this one, he took it, but at least I can say that I lost to the champion.

And now Miguel is onto a new challenge.. in Mexico?

A new challenge, and a new chapter, and now both of the brothers have a trophy.

Of course, one of the mysteries going into Season 5 is the identity of Miguel’s father. And you can’t say anything about that, right? But the journey is now an emotional one.

Yeah, yeah! I think that something that I’ve always loved so much about the character of Miguel is that he never needed a biological father to find that father figure. And I feel like that’s an experience that a lot of people know and are familiar with, whether that’s an uncle or a friend of your parents or someone close to you, and that’s something that I’ve resonated with. I think because of that, entering this new chapter of Miguel’s life where that validation is not enough, or maybe what he thought he needed is no longer the case, and he’s grown into his own, and now he needs a new sense of purpose, whatever that is. And I hope that in Season 5, he finds it, whatever that looks like, meeting his dad or not meeting his dad. The soap opera it is, because it can’t get any more wrong than right now [in real life], so I hope for Miguel, it’s clear skies ahead, but who knows?

Speaking of soap operas, one of the best things about this show is that the kids have it together a lot more than the adults, who are all flexing about karate like it’s the only thing in the universe.

They’re all like tiger moms!

What’s it like to see those legends really going at it again?

So, I think the adult aspect is one that’s super unique to me because honestly I’m never really filming with all of the adults together. That rivalry never really happens in front of kids, so as an audience member, getting to experience that on Netflix for the first time is something fun. It’s like a little lucky charm in your cereal.

Finally, if you could take Miguel out of Cobra Kai and put him in another show, where would you want him to go?

Oooh, I’d want him to go into Nathan For You with a failed karate dojo.

‘Cobra Kai’s fourth season is currently streaming on Netflix.

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