In the first season of Cobra Kai, Eli Moskowitz (Jacob Bertrand) is targeted by bullies because he has a slight facial disfigurement. He eventually signs up to be a student at the Cobra Kai dojo, owned by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), to learn self-defense. During his first lesson, Johnny makes rude comments about Eli’s scar and encourages him to change his appearance. In response, the teenager cuts his hair into a mohawk and is given the nickname Hawk.
Following his physical transformation, Hawk starts exhibiting increasingly violent behavior. For instance in Cobra Kai Season 3, he constantly harasses his former best friend Demetri (Gianni Decenzo) and only starts feeling bad about his actions after he breaks his arm.
Jacob Bertrand Was Bullied Growing Up
In a January interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jacob Bertrand revealed that he, like his character, was bullied growing up.
“When I was younger, I was kind of bullied a lot, and it was weird kind of diving back into a character that had that similar backstory,” said the 21-year-old.
The actor then made reference to a scene from Season 3, Episode 6, where Hawk beats up his former bully, Brucks (Bo Mitchell) in the Cobra Kai dojo.
“The episode where I fight Brucks, and I’m on top of him, you know, kind of pounding down on his face, and my hands are all bloody. That was a pretty emotional scene. I was definitely letting a lot out in that take,” explained the actor.
Bertrand Also Talked About Being Bullied in a 2018 Interview
Bertrand shared similar information while speaking to Crooked Llama in 2018. He told the publication:
I was bullied a lot as a kid, all through elementary school. I really, really don’t care for bullies, I don’t really get why people do that. It sucked, I hated it. I thought it was so cool to get a chance to embody a character that started kinda insecure, bullied by other kids. To have this kind of turnaround, join Cobra Kai, beating everybody up and getting a mohawk and a back tattoo, that was really, really fun for me. He kinda did a total 180 from sort of victim to aggressor.
During the interview, Bertrand also noted that Hawk decided to change his appearance and personality after Johnny made unkind remarks. He believed this encouraged other Cobra Kai students to act aggressively.
“I think how he comes back as Hawk, I think that set the standard for the other kids. Yeah, people are gonna make fun of you, mess with you and just be total jerks but, it’s what you do after that,” explained the actor. “You don’t just sit in the dirt and wallow, you get back up and you strike back harder. It’s a very aggressive, very harsh lesson but I think that’s kinda what Cobra Kai is, harsh and merciless. That’s how these kids get created, in a way he sort of creates these monsters but they’re sort of rising from the ashes of their nerdier, victim selves.”
To see more of Bertrand, be sure to watch Cobra Kai, available on Netflix.