Cobra Kai's Sean Kanan talks up his most famous character on maiden visit to Dubai

The American actor was at the first-ever edition of PopCon Middle East the past weekend


Husain Rizvi

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Published: Sun 13 Nov 2022, 5:40 PM

American actor Sean Kanan's first-ever visit to the Middle East region saw him as part of the star-studded PopCon Middle East, the debut edition of the film and gaming convention held in Dubai over the past weekend.

Several stars including Chris Hemsworth, Katie Cassidy, and Stephen Amell attended the four-day event. They interacted with fans, signed autographs, posed for pictures, and engaged in panel talks at the event which was held at Dubai's Expo City.

Sean, meanwhile, famous for his portrayal of the hot-headed Mike Barnes in the Karate Kid Universe (films and the latest season of Cobra Kai) among several other movies and shows like Fortress, The Bold and the Beautiful, and General Hospital, held autograph and photograph sessions on November 11, 12, and 13.

Sean Kanan during the autograph signing session at PopCon Middle East. Photo: Supplied
Sean Kanan during the autograph signing session at PopCon Middle East. Photo: Supplied

We caught up with the actor at PopCon ME and discussed his maiden visit not only to Dubai but also the Middle East region, his most famous character Mike Barnes, and what Cobra Kai viewers can expect from him next.

"It is very exciting and interesting," he says of his visit. "Because we see so many things on the news about so many different people, and I have not had a lot of personal experience outside of the Untied States with Middle Eastern people."

"And, of course, Middle Eastern people aren't monolithic, they're all different. But, for me, it's been really interesting just to begin to make some interpersonal connections with people here in Dubai, and learn some about their perspective of life and everything else. And, also to see such amazing architecture here, it's been a very interesting and wonderful experience so far."

Sean Kanan poses for a photograph with a fan at PopCon Middle East. Photo: Supplied
Sean Kanan poses for a photograph with a fan at PopCon Middle East. Photo: Supplied

Sean has played A. J. Quartermaine on General Hospital and Deacon Sharpe on The Bold and the Beautiful, two of his popular on-screen characters, but Mike Barnes is undoubtedly his most famous role, for more reasons than one.

Playing Mike in The Karate Kid Part III was Sean's first notable film role. He was the central antagonist against Daniel LaRusso, played by Ralph Macchio. Decades later, he reprised his role as Mike in the latest season of spin-off series Cobra Kai. This time around, he's no villain, instead he's become a better man pursuing a lucrative career as a furniture salesman in The Valley. But, beware, he's still very much the karate-person he was back then.

Sean is the latest in a line of Karate Kid veterans like Ralph, William Zabka, Martin Kove, and Thomas Ian Griffith, to reprise his role after over 30 years, in Cobra Kai. And that is one of the main USPs of the show, to see characters return to reel life after three decades.

"I think one of the most successful things that the creators of the show have done is that they are able to straddle the fence, so to speak, between two age demographics," Sean said. "On the one hand, you have the younger generation that loves Cobra Kai, and maybe haven't even watched the original films until after Cobra Kai, then you've got the other generation, my age, which grew up with the films. And they like Cobra Kai for its nostalgic qualities. It's a very tricky thing to do, writing for two different age demographics. People laugh at different things, they have different frames of reference, different commonalities, and it is not easy to be able to tap into the things that different ages find funny.

"What I think is really cool about the show is that it effectively acts as a magnet in the sense that it attracts both generations. You can have parents and their kids, both enjoying the same thing. It brings them together, which I think is a very positive thing, especially in the world today."

He added, "It is not very often that an actor gets a chance to reprise the role that he or she may have played some 30 years ago. For me, it has been a really wonderful opportunity because, in the film, The Karate Kid Part III, my character was a very one-dimensional thuggish bad guy. But now, coming back to Cobra Kai, and after talking with the creators of the show, I wanted to make sure that the character was a much more multi-dimensional character, representing the 30-something years of growth, one way or the other, either positively or negatively, that the character undoubtedly underwent."

Sean Kanan in a still from 'The Karate Kid Part III'.
Sean Kanan in a still from 'The Karate Kid Part III'.

The actor added that he wanted to tap into some "comedic" qualities because comedy is at the center of what Cobra Kai is about. He said, "So, for me, it checked all the boxes."

Sean kept up with martial arts through the years, which helped him with his role in Cobra Kai. "Now, as an actor, 30 some years down the road, I've done well over 1000 episodes of network television," he said. "I have many more arrows in my quiver than I did as a young actor. But part of being a young, inexperienced actor, actually helped me play Mike Barnes because he was a very young, brash, one dimensional guy. Now, as an older guy, I've got children, I am married, I've lived life extensively. So, there was a lot more that I could bring to the character that would be reflective of who the character 30 years down the road is."

And that was visible in the fifth season of the show as Mike played a pivotal role in the plot. He helped Daniel (Ralph Macchio), Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), and Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto) take on the evil Terry Silver, played by Thomas Ian, the primary antagonist of Season 5.

Season 6 of Cobra Kai, however, hasn't been announced yet and Sean would be "stunned" if Netflix doesn't renew the popular show which has done extremely well so far. The new season could see the young karate geniuses going international with Sekai Taikai, the tournament for the best martial artists from all over the world.

And who better than Mike Barnes, who was a national tournament champion, to give them the benefit of his experience and knowledge, says Sean with a huge grin on his face. The students will also have Daniel and Chozen from Miyagi-Do karate, and, of course, Johnny's karate philosophy.

All the tutors have their own strengths, as does Mike Barnes. "So, I think it will be interesting to have the benefit of all four of these senseis training the kids," says Sean. "Because I think each one brings a different component to what they're going to need to be victorious."

And that's Sean's "two cents" on why Mike Barnes would be a great asset for a possible Season 6 of Cobra Kai, whether or not anyone else thinks that.

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