Cobra Kai’s Vanessa Rubio Talks Carmen’s Game-Changing Secret & Perfectly Timed Romance With Johnny

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Netflix’s biggest hit, Cobra Kai, released its latest season New Year’s Eve, and fans still can’t stop talking about it.

TV Fanatic had the pleasure of speaking to one of the hottest and sweetest babes of the Valley, as Johnny would put it, Vanessa Rubio, who keeps both Johnny and Miguel in line.

And we got to discuss those fun scenes with the LaRussos, the Carmen and Johnny romance we adore, that shocking cliffhanger, and more. Check out our chat below!

Congratulations on yet another successful season of Cobra Kai! People love it and are obsessed. Do you still get surprised by how wildly popular and successful it is, and you’re actually part of that?

Absolutely, I still get surprised. And sometimes, I have to measure it for myself. On New Year’s Eve, I had to put my head in the sand a little bit and be like, “I’m not gonna rewatch it. I’m not gonna go online,” just to let it be what it was going to be.

And then I would poke my head in a bit and watch and read the comments. It was lovely as it always is. The fans are so great, and I just love how it’s a worldwide hit. Netflix is able to reach so many countries all at once. And somehow, this show is really hitting home for many people. And it’s wonderful.

Yeah, it really is. I think especially now more than ever to have that sort of universal connection going on around the globe. It’s insane but so great.

It’s been an excellent season for the Johnny and Carmen fans. The ship has finally sailed! Why was now the perfect time for you two to be together officially?

It’s such a sweet story because I think it’s told in pretty realistic terms. They both have strong feelings for each other, but they’re scared of them a bit, here and there. I love how we went from Cobra Kai Season 3 to where they’re kind of on the rocks, and then you’re left with, “Oh, no, did Johnny mess up at the end?”

In Cobra Kai Season 4, he came back around. And I liked the dynamic because Carmen is this character who subtly stands her ground. I love how she’s strong yet very sensitive to a lot of dichotomies in a woman and her strength to be like, “You know, what? This isn’t going to happen.”

And by you know, we’re cool. We can go to these family events, and you can see me looking all fly. [laughs] I’ll just be waiting here for when you make your decision. I think Carmen is pretty lovely in that she doesn’t push too hard. She let him come to her. I’m always happy for them.

I was pleasantly surprised by how they got over their hurdle quickly. I thought it would be more drama with him when she found out about Ali. They both handled that maturely. And you’re right, Carmen just has so much grace, but she knows when to give him space and when to push him.

You guys ended up being together pretty early into the season. How often did you guys have to shoot that scene where you sat down and told Miguel the truth? That seemed like a fun, hilarious scene to do with a straight face.

Going into those scenes, I have to play its seriousness so hard because I don’t want to laugh. When you look at it in a certain way, Miguel could turn around and say, “You stole one good thing in my life. I hate you forever, mom.”

I had to go in with it with a really good base. And that day, we were called in early because of scheduling conflicts, so we weren’t supposed to film that scene on that day. But it was fun.

And of course, Billy and I have a really nice rapport now working with each other. So we were just ready to do it. And it was one of the funnier scenes. I know Xolo was the one having trouble keeping a straight face.

You guys have great chemistry. And I think another one of my favorite scenes was when Johnny came to confess his love. And Yaya and all of her friends were there. I know those had to be fun scenes to shoot because they just seem so funny.

Totally. That was one of my favorite ones, too. They’re all like sitting there, and they’re lovely, like, dresses just like, “Hi!”

How important is it to show that Johnny is just as immersed in Carmen’s world as she is in his?

It’s really lovely. I love how the two are neighbors at the same time. So at this point, I think at the end of season four, he definitely has a key; he’s going into her apartment all the time, and she’s there for it. She probably wants to improve how he eats, though.

As you said before, when the two aren’t together, per se, there’s still almost this very familial, communal element to it.

That’s essentially how their relationship formed, and he won her heart– through Miguel. She saw that his love and dedication for her son were endless. I think there was a build-up when Miguel was learning how to walk again. Johnny was both teaching him and making it back up to Carmen in that way.

Johnny and Daniel finally had a truce, which meant we got more of those enjoyable scenes with the two couples and families coming together. Do you enjoy filming those scenes and forming those dynamics?

Absolutely. I think it’s a nice contrast. Daniel has a seemingly complete family, and Johnny’s forming his, and they’re coming together as they are. Nobody’s perfect, but they’re just coming together.

I love the Carmen and Amanda friendship. I want that to grow even more in season five, and those scenes were the loveliest for me to film.

The ones were right before the prom; it really did feel like a family. It was funny; I felt like I was not even acting — the emotion of sending your kid off to prom and seeing them all done up.

Also, you know, Randee Heller was there, the original mother of Daniel LaRusso. It felt like there was so much history and beauty in this room. Also, that was the scene where we had Ralph’s daughter, Julia, so there was a good time in that particular scene.

Carmen has come around to the karate thing. Now that she’s dating Johnny and spending more time with the LaRussos, when are we going to see her learning some karate? Have you picked up any moves or anything? I want to see Carmen kick a little ass!

Me too! I think she has it in her, too. She’s a little tiger. I would love that.

And let’s hope that they make it happen. At least have Johnny bring her into some Dojo or teach her some moves, right?

We need to talk about that cliffhanger because my jaw dropped when Miguel took off for Mexico searching for his father, who doesn’t even know he exists!

Please walk me through your reaction to that. Were you shocked when you heard about that storyline?

Yeah, I was like, “Whoa!” That wasn’t presented to me any time before I read that script. I had to go back and sort of justify it in my mind and ask the producers as well. I was just plying them for details.

“So what exactly do you guys have envisioned? Because I have my own backstory, but I’m not sure if it’s mapping to yours.” I felt like I didn’t want Carmen to be in a position where she looked like the bad guy.

Right!

I wondered did she overreact to a situation and abandoned this guy and, you know, robbed Miguel of his father figure?

So I had to really go back and justify it in my mind, story-wise, like backstory-wise, as to why she would take such a drastic decision. In talking with them, they came to a conclusion, and I was like, OK, but I still was a little taken aback by it for sure.

But in my mind, not as Carmen, but as the actor, seeing Miguel make that choice? I’m proud of him. Yeah, man. You’re not getting your answers at home, go do it. I only hope that it leads him and Carmen into a bigger conversation about the past, they resolve that, and they’re able to have a stronger relationship.

It gets tricky. We trust that Carmen would do anything to protect Miguel, but then from his perspective, his mother has lied to him his whole life. It does make you concerned about that relationship and how they can navigate that once he inevitably finds out the truth.

Do you have any other details you can share about Miguel’s dad and why he’s so dangerous?

That’s my protected season five details, yup! I cannot say anything else. [laughs] Really, I literally can’t say anything else. But it’s like I said, I can only hope that whatever happens to Miguel in Mexico, he’s able to come back and forgive his mother, and they’re able to come back stronger.

OK. I tried!

It’s a promising way of digging into the family a bit. We know bits and pieces about Carmen, but this can expand her storyline further, and I’m sure you’re very excited about that.

I hope we did it justice. And if we didn’t, then my hands are out of it. I’m not the writer, or the producer, sadly, in this one, so I hope it meets people’s expectations!

There is so much discussion about Latine representation in TV and film and the constant battle for visibility. How important is it for you to be part of a hit series with Latin representation, conscientious Latine representation at the forefront?

Yeah, it does put a lot of pressure on your shoulders, and I’ve been pretty conscious of that. It’s like another job on top of the job that I have, but I have to do it; I can’t give up or stay quiet on certain issues, and I’ve done my best to speak up.

The producers have been very receptive. If I want a line change here or think she could say something different there, they’re very receptive to that.

In this instance, I think it’s very important because it is not just a Latino show. You have a Latino family in the mix of many different representations in there, which makes it even more powerful because you’re getting to an audience who maybe wouldn’t watch a show with all of that at first.

Yeah, and sadly we see sometimes where that doesn’t pan out, I was just reading about the cancellation of Gentefied, and it was just so frustrating to me. 

Me too, and same with One Day at a Time.

Right. You have to take those wins when you get them, which appears to be a notable aspect of this series, not just for Latine representation but many types. It’s good that your input is respected.

Of course. And I try my best. I’m one person doing these different jobs; I almost wish that there was some other person on set, who could validate me or bounce ideas off of, you know? Because sometimes it can be very fatiguing — that weight of responsibility in my doing that, like, am I even doing this correctly?

Oh, yeah. I understand that.

So all I can say is I’m doing my best, but I love the story. I love the show. And I think a big draw is that Johnny and Carmen come from different cultures their romance.

Let’s be real about that; it’s hot! And I think people want to know about how that happens. It’s intriguing and gets people’s attention in a really good way.

Especially someone like Johnny’s character, Johnny, who’s just so politically incorrect at times, but always well-meaning.

Yeah, it’s so great to see that. Johnny — his heart melts when he sees Carmen, and he’ll do anything for her. Those different dichotomies existing in one person are really interesting to watch. I hope that they delve into this story even more, and I hope fans will be satisfied with where we take it in season five.

I read you made a road trip from LA to Atlanta to shoot the series and chronicled your experience. Can you tell me about your journey?

There’s a lot of road out there. I mean, this country is huge. I’m a woman, and I’m a person of color with certain fears and reservations and kind of just hoped everything would be OK. And thankfully, everything was OK.

There was an instance where I was staying in an Airbnb, and it was definitely someone there I couldn’t share political views with, but it was nice because we didn’t even talk about it.

We were able to get along and just commune over the simple things like being a dog owner or being women. And that was nice for me to experience.

Things can go sideways, but what holds humanity together is this. This … between two people, not with all the ideologies that can tear people apart. Let’s just be OK with each other. And we were, and it was great. So instances like that strengthen me and restore my faith in people.

Sedona, everybody should take a trip to Sedona; it’s magical. It’s one of the true gems of the United States. That whole region is beautiful, and I enjoyed Santa Fe. Memphis has its own vibe going on, but I’ve heard that. I discovered that that song, Walking in Memphis, is true.

You have to walk in Memphis, not drive through it. That city really wants to be walked. Each city has its own specific flavor. And I love to see people wanting to present the best of their city or town to you when they know you’re an outsider. It’s heartwarming.

Was the road trip something you did because of the pandemic?

In part, but I also have a dog.

I’m probably not the only person experiencing this, but I toggle between these feelings of thinking about how I can’t go out or have to stay safe, and then this being inside of me has to get out.

I got to explore, so I think it was a big way for me to just say yes to those desires of wanting to get out and explore, and just do it at your feet on the ground and do it. Be in action.

Even though I still have this self that has fears and considers what I am going to encounter, I have to say yes to that other voice. Because I know, I’ll just be unhappy. The more that we say yes to our creative desires, the better we are, the happier we are. So that’s better for other people and us.

Do you have any other teasers for what’s to come in season five or just a wishlist for what you’d like, just to keep it safe?

I mean, it was so hard to fit in so much information for season four. I wanted to come home and tell all my friends. Oh my god, Carrie Underwood is so amazing!

That was the most unexpected cameo ever.

Oh my God, and she was so lovely! You could tell that she was a real true fan of the show, and all of us became fanboys and girls. We showed up three hours before our call time like, “Oh, hi, where’s Carrie?”

But for season five, I’m just going to have to say that, especially in terms of Johnny and Carmen’s relationship, I’m a sucker for a happy ending. I hope that they’re working towards that happy ending. I think we all want to see it.

And, gosh, I just kind of want to see Kreese learn his lesson. I almost wish he would come out and be on Daniel and Johnny’s side. But who knows? I don’t know if that’s in his wheelhouse or if he’s capable of that, but I would like to see that happen.

I felt like we saw glimmers of maybe a possible redemption thing going on there at the end, possibly, but you never know what that meant. He’s kind of an enigma.

He’s an enigma. And he’s like, literally a snake, but we still need Him. We need him.

Yes. Martin Kove is so great in the role. I want to hate Kreese so much, but he’s so good at playing him that I’m just infatuated. He seems like he has a blast in the role; you all do.

Yeah, he does. And Marty is a sweetheart! Even when I first met him, I was like, “Is he really like the character?” But he’s absolutely a teddy bear! So sweet.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Over to you, Cobra Kai Fanatics! What are you looking forward to in season five? Hit the comments below and show Vanessa Rubio some love.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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