Why Peyton List Has a Problem Playing Tory on ‘Cobra Kai’

Peyton List and Mary Mouser in "Cobra Kai" season 3.

YouTube Tory Nichols (Peyton List) and Sam LaRusso (Mary Mouser) engage in battle in the "Cobra Kai" season 3 finale.

Fans of Netflix’s smash hit “Cobra Kai” will recognize Peyton List as the devious Tory Nichols, an antagonist to the show introduced in season 2. Tory’s role in grew in significance as time went on, instigating a major fight in the local high school at the end of the second season, and several more fights as her aggression grew in season 3. List, a former Disney star, recently opened up about playing her character, and one certain element of the role  in particular that she takes issue with.

Here’s what she had to say.

List: Playing Tory Is a ‘Dream Role’

According to a January 2021 article from CheatSheet, List was reportedly very excited about the opportunity “Cobra Kai” presented to her, especially in contrast to the roles she was primarily known for: that of Emma Ross in the Disney Channel series “Jessie,” for instance, or the kind-hearted Holly Hills in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” film series.

She explained in a Zoom roundtable, as per CheatSheet, that Tory Nichols had been a “dream role,” and, “the most fun role I’ve ever had the chance to play.”

She went on to say that the “Cobra Kai” co-creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg joked about “wanting a challenge” with List. She explained:

They just love a good challenge and they like taking this girl who’s from Disney and…giving me the opportunity to say yeah, she can do it. I really appreciated them saying that and then seeing that in me for my audition because I feel like a lot of people would box me in and say ‘she can’t do it, let’s move on.’

List Fears She May Have A Bit Too Much Tory In Her

Peyton List in "Cobra Kai" season 3.

YouTubeTory confronts Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) in “Cobra Kai” season 3.

List explained in the roundtable that, although she is grateful for the role, she occasionally fears she has become so invested in Tory that she is unable to extract herself from the character after the cameras stop rolling. She explained: “I go home and it’s kind of hard for me to turn it off because I’m so excited. I feel like I’m always watching videos of stunts and trying to practice.”

She went on to say that she has nevertheless learned how to turn that switch off, given how much she has learned from acting in the series: “I do turn it off, but also Tory has taught me a lot about my life and this show has taught me a lot. I’m just grateful for the whole thing.”

It is no secret to “Cobra Kai” fans that Tory deals with a number of issues, not restricted to those of aggression. In season 3, Tory faces the consequences of her actions instigating the school-wide fight at the end of season 2, getting expelled from school and being put on probation as an alternative to juvenile detention, given that she is her mother’s primary caretaker. The poverty-stricken teenager, who also has a little brother to look after, is also forced to take up two jobs to pay the rent, and as a result must quit Cobra Kai.

Though many fans see Tory as a heartless antagonist, List is able to empathize a lot more with her character. “I see exactly where Tory’s coming from,” she said, as per CheatSheet. “I think you see that with a lot of teenagers, especially ones who have never really been shown any love or support and they feel really alone… She needs the right sensei I think and the right guidance. I see where she’s coming from and I feel for her.”

The last we saw of Tory, she and other Cobra Kai students had a showdown with Sam, Miguel, Hawk, Demetri, and other Miyago Do and Eagle Fang members in the third season finale. She engages in battle with Sam, who defeats her, before Tory and the other Kreese-mentored students leave. What will become of Tory, and how her role in the show will continue to expand, is yet to be seen, although Peyton List has been upgraded to main cast status for season 4, so we are likely to see much more of her.

Be sure to catch season 4 of “Cobra Kai” when it is released on Netflix Dec. 31.

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