Getting Tamlyn Tomita to reprise her role in Season 3 “Cobra Kai” was a long process, reveal the creators

Getting Tamlyn Tomita to reprise her role in Season 3 “Cobra Kai” was a long process, reveal the creators
Source: PBS

Season 3 “Cobra Kai” dropped on Netflix on New Year’s Day, and this season continues to have familiar faces reprising their roles from the beloved “The Karate Kid” trilogy. Season 3 “Cobra Kai” saw Tamalyn Tomita reprise her role as Kumiko, the dancer from Okinawa who played Daniel LaRusso’s love interest in the 1986 sequel “The Karate Kid Part II.”

Tomita’s return to “Cobra Kai” Season 3

Although the show was already a massive hit prior to Tomita signing onto the project, the 54-year-old actress had some strict ground rules set in order to return for two episodes in Season 3 “Cobra Kai.” Tomita starred in “The Karate Kid Part II” 34 years ago and was a teenager who did not have much experience in the industry. Plus, acting alongside Ralph Macchio and veterans Nobu McCarthy and Pat Morita was a no brainer for her to sign onto the film. However, her decades of experience in the industry has taught her one important thing: how to fight for realistic on-screen representation.

Tomita was born in Okinawa to a Japanese American father and an Okinawan Filipino mother, and although she was raised in San Fernando Valley, she incorporated some of her roots to the older Kumiko that would be portrayed in “Cobra Kai,”  lending her own cultural items to the Atlanta set. “I said I would love to, this would be so fun, but the only caveat is that because I’m older because I’m a little bit more knowledgeable and I’m going to fight for it anyway – I need to be able to inject a truer picture of Okinawa,” said Tomita in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Tomita revealed that she got the role when the creators emailed her in 2019 asking if she was interested in reprising her role in “Cobra Kai” Season 3. “[I asked] if I could get the script ahead of time and translate things from Japanese to hōgen, or Uchinanchu, which is the Okinawan dialect. And I also took it upon myself to go to the Okinawa Association of America and ask them for the correct Okinawan choreography to ‘Tinsagu nu Hana,’ which is the song that me and my mom made up the dance to in “Karate Kid II” because I wasn’t choreographed for that section of the film. And in “Cobra Kai” you only see two seconds of it, but at least I got to inject as much Okinawan as I could.”

As far as her role in Season 3 “Cobra Kai,” Tomita said she was happy with how Kumiko was presented when she first read the script. “I think there were a lot of things unsaid because I don’t think those three guys, as young as they are, know how to speak as a woman and they didn’t consult me. Are there things that I would have liked to have said as Kumiko? I think so. But again, I knew as Tamlyn that I had to serve the story. I was just happy to be in service of that but also to serve the giving of the letters to Daniel-san. That’s what was important. And to know that Kumiko lives in the hearts of so many … I don’t need to write it, I don’t need to speak it. I think everybody gets to fill out the story for themselves. A certain look in their eyes will say, I will love you, always. And I think that’s enough.”

All three seasons of “Cobra Kai” are streaming on Netflix now.

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