Meet Courtney Henggeler, the other star of LI’s ‘Cobra Kai’
Ralph Macchio is not the only star of the streaming series “Cobra Kai” who hails from Long Island. The show, a 1984 spin-off “The Karate Kid,” retransmits the Dix Hills-raised actor as Daniel LaRusso – now a family man who runs a successful car dealership – but it turns out that Courtney Henggeler, who plays his wife, Amanda, grew up partly in Seaford.
Henggeler, 42, was working as an actress in Los Angeles and on the verge of giving up when “Cobra Kai” offered her the role of Amanda LaRusso, a suburban wife and mother of two. (Henggeler is also married and has two children.) The show aired on YouTube Premium for two seasons and became a dormant success, earning two Emmy nominations for stunt work; Netflix picked it up for season three, which premiered on January 1. William Zabka, who is reprising his famous role of the enemy from Daniel Johnny Lawrence, is co-producing the series with Macchio.
Henggeler was packing for a trip to Atlanta, where season four will be filming, when she spoke to Newsday by phone from her new home in Huntington. She moved there early last year – before Covid – to be close to her family. “You just can’t leave Long Island,” she said. Here’s an edited version of the conversation.
You moved just in time for all the excitement.
We moved the day the lockdowns started. we hear Huntington is beautiful! We’ll never know, but we hear it is a wonderful city with wonderful restaurants. Maybe one day we will find out. I don’t know if you know Kerber’s Farm? The inside of it looks so cute smelly – but I’ve never been there!
So you are from New Jersey
I was born there, but I think I lived there half a second before my parents moved out. I grew up in Pennsylvania, actually, the Poconos, until I was 14. Then my parents broke up and my mom told me, let’s go back to Long Island. Were people from the South Shore, my parents grew up opposite each other in Seaford.
Where do you go to high school?
Seaford High School, the home of the Vikings! We didn’t have a solid theater program, but I did every play you could do in high school. And I did the Town of Hempstead Teen Rep. We had something called a ‘showmobile’ so we would go to different parks around Hempstead and put on different kids shows on literally a car that would open. It sounds weird but it was a lot of fun.
So what? University?
I went to a SUNY school, Fredonia which is about as far away from Seaford, Long Island as you can get in New York State. I was a major BFA, and it wasn’t clicking with me. So I dropped out of college, much to my parents’ horror. I got a job this summer as a bartender and took classes in town. A year or two later, I moved to Los Angeles. I immediately started booking ads and thought to myself, “It’s easy!” Cut 20 years later: “Finally, I’m on a series!”
So tell me how you got the role of Amanda LaRusso.
I just had my son. I decided to stop playing. I’ve been doing this for so long, since I was in my twenties. It was exhausting and I wasn’t going any further. I said to my husband, “I think I’m done.” He said to me: “It’s amazing. I support you in whatever you want. However, we get our health insurance through SAG [the Screen Actors Guild]. Can you stay a little longer until we find a plan B? “Next week I think I had the audition for ‘Cobra Kai’.
What was it like being on set with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, actors who go back 35 years together?
Ralph and Billy couldn’t be more charming, but it was very surreal. I called Ralph “Ralph Macchio” – one word. I couldn’t forget it was my husband on TV. And off-set we are talking about our children! Like, am I talking about Ralph Macchio’s kids? He said, “It’s just Ralph. You can just call me Ralph.” It finally ended around season three.
Are there any other projects you are working on besides “Cobra Kai”?
I wrote a Lifetime Movie that aired earlier in the fall. It’s called “The Secret Life of a Celebrity Surrogate”. It is about a girl who becomes the surrogate mother of a powerful Hollywood couple and the dangers that lie there. I write a few movies like this. My focus is comedy, which is what I love to write, but for some reason I ended up in the “female thriller” niche. And I also have a good time writing them.
REVIEW: With the switch to Netflix, ‘Cobra Kai’ loses some of its charm
WHAT IS IT ABOUT Ralph Macchio made an endearing comeback story by reshaping the coat of The Karate Kid, the 1984 film that made him a star, by launching a spinoff series, Cobra Kai. For fans, the only thing better than seeing Macchio play Daniel LaRusso again no longer a skinny high school student but a wealthy business owner saw William Zabka reprise his role as blond bully Johnny Lawrence, now a defeated middle-aged alcoholic. by life. The series cleverly reversed its old rivalry by making Daniel the best dog; it’s Johnny who must regain his self-esteem by reopening his old dojo, the infamous Cobra Kai.
Cobra Kai premiered on YouTube Premium in 2018 and became a hit for two seasons. It was picked up by Netflix for season three.
MY SAY If the Karate Kid franchise is your Star Wars, that is, canon text that you have memorized in great detail, this season of Cobra Kai is for you. Macchio, the show’s co-producer, described it as pure fan service, which means it’s full of references, origin stories, flashbacks (so many flashbacks) and guest appearances. surprises. That’s good news if you remember vividly, say, the decisive battle of The Karate Kid Part II and all the characters in The Karate Kid Part III. Otherwise, you might feel that this season is losing its focus and stretching its material too much.
It’s hard not to get involved in the constant battles between sadistic bullies and weaker underdogs. It’s something primitive, and that’s why the original movie still lasts. The young supporting actors here remain a mixed bag, but there are a few highlights, including Jacob Bertrand as Eli Hawk Moskowitz, a nerd turned punk turned jerk, and Peyton List as Tory Nichols, a pint-sized psychopath obsessed with Daniels daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser).
Add to some of these primal scenes the raw emotions that erupt between sons and fathers (sometimes figurative), and Cobra Kai can still be quite entertaining. Zabkas Johnny, still the oppressed heart of the series, fulfills a triple duty in this respect: Johnny tries to reconnect with his son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan, a naturally born incubator), and a student who may be paralyzed ( Xolo Maridueña as Miguel), while resisting the Vader pull of his old sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove, savoring every chewing of the landscape). At times, Macchios Daniel feels a bit left out, although the show sends him to Okinawa to visit the hometown of his beloved teacher, Mr. Miyagi (played by the late Pat Morita in movie clips previous).
Kreese is proving to be center stage this season in a long origin story. He’s played as a young man cleaned up by a rather good Barrett Carnahan in a series of intense flashbacks, which are first shot like a 1950s movie, The Little Town Restaurant, The Bobby-Soxer, The Mocking Jocks, then like a 1970. war film when the child of the heart loses its humanity in Vietnam. These segments seem a bit dark to Cobra Kai and don’t match the generally harmless tone of the shows, but they are painstakingly staged and help break up the monotony of the teen fight scenes.
Never underestimate The Karate Kid as a franchise. He survived The Next Karate Kid (1994), which starred a young Hilary Swank; a 2010 remake with Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan; and a long-forgotten animated TV show. He can probably also survive a patchy Cobra Kai season.
LOWER LINE The YouTubes sleeper success has lost some of its rambling charm under Netflix. – RAFER GUZMAN
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