“It’s okay to be vulnerable. What I realized with Kenny is that it’s okay to be a sensitive kid,”
says Dallas Dupree Young, the actor who places the newest Cobra Kai character, Kenny. We’re on Zoom talking about the hit Netflix show, which went to #1 almost immediately. In the show, Kenny is a middle school student, everyday facing the wrath of bullies, evolving into the bully himself. And though he may come off as tough, like all young people with a hardened exterior, there’s a sensitive person inside.
“As a man, people think we’re supposed to be very strong and powerful at all times. The good thing about Kenny is that he’s so who he is. We saw the different sides of him, and it’s okay to feel weak sometimes and not know what to do in life, then fix yourself and figure out who you want to be, who you are as a person.”
Kenny’s storyline revolves around being tormented at school by Anthony (portrayed by Griffin Santopietro), the antagonistic, spoiled son of Ralph Macchio’s character, Daniel LaRusso. When speaking on what it meant to portray Kenny, Dallas tells us “I really related to this character because of the fact that he was bullied, and I was cyberbullied when I was younger. It was very difficult hearing negative comments and having to live with that every single day of my life.”
Kenny’s path from helpless to hellbent on getting revenge on those who hurt him is relatable for many. “As soon as I read the script for Kenny, and the creators told me the storyline, I resonated with him from the beginning. You see his struggles and what he has to go through every day at school, and how he doesn’t want to be there, but then turns into this ‘karate kid’ who just wants to get revenge on his bullies, and be the best student at Cobra Kai.”
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Dallas’ role as Kenny wasn’t his first parlay into the role of an athlete. He comes from a long lineage of sports, baseball to be exact. His father Eric Young Sr. once played baseball professionally for the Atlanta Braves and his brother, Eric Young Jr.,is a current MLB star.
“Before acting was even in my thoughts, I thought that I was going to be a Major League Baseball player, and try to be a first ballot hall-of-famer,” Dallas tells Very Good Light. “I worked countless hours to perfect my craft, and I was one of those kids where school and acting were my life.”
First getting his start in acting back home in Houston, Dallas suddenly was moved to LA for acting showcases There, he was scouted out by managers and agents to join projects such as The Good Place and The Fosters.
As Kenny, in season 4 of the show, Dallas plays the youngest member of the group. Though he may have been the most youthful on set, it’s his prior acting experiences that prepared him “It’s okay to be the youngest actor on set. You just need to keep the same professionalism that you would have with younger cast members.”
Not only the youngest actor on set, Dallas was also one of the only Black actors on Cobra Kai this season. “This is an important topic that people need to discuss, and I want to represent all of the African-Americans who want to learn karate, who want to be the best, and who want to be on top. It’s very important for Black kids to feel empowered and to be strong at all times, and to be who they want to be.”
A big fan of the original Karate Kid movies starring his now co-star, Ralph Macchio, Dallas was a practicing karate student when he was younger, carrying this into his preparation for Cobra Kai. “I was so excited to join Cobra Kai. When I found out that I got the role, it was sort of this exuberance that I felt. I didn’t expect all of this feedback or responses, but it’s so incredible, and I’m so happy the show is so popular.”
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Part of this season’s massive success is Kenny’s character, for which Dallas had to prepare for both mentally and physically. According to the 15-year old actor, he had to work countless hours along with stunt doubles and coordinators to get it right. As a beginner karate student, Dallas had to train specifically throughout his development to showcase his character getting faster, stronger, and more powerful.
But selfcare is still an important part of any person’s life. When we asked Dallas how he cares for himself he didn’t hesitate with giving us his beauty secret. Two things Dallas never goes without?CeraVe moisturizer (because…doesn’t everyone?) and KeraCare hair product for the shininess of his hair. We’re glad to know that Dallas is on the same side of beauty TikTok as we are!
When it comes to beauty, someone who has always influenced Dallas in feeling beautiful is his mom. “Whenever my mom used to tell me how beautiful I am. It makes me feel like I have a purpose, and that I’m here for a purpose. I’m here on this earth to show people that I’m imperfect, and that’s a strong reason why I feel beautiful is because my mom always encourages me to be the best person I can possibly be.” Moms, they just always know the right things to say.