Growing up, many kids dream of starring in a Disney Channel sitcom or being in a superhero movie. It doesn’t matter that they lack acting experience or are thousands of miles away from the nearest film studio, it all seems entirely plausible — until they grow up, get told that they have a one in a million chance of becoming a famous actor, and decide to pursue a more traditional career. But for Tanner Buchanan, who grew up in the Midwest around “fields on top of fields”, neither small-town convention or geographical distance could crush his dreams of becoming a performer. “Coming from a small town in Ohio that circulates really around football and sports, I was kind of the odd duckling of the bunch. I was always interested in the more artsy side of things,” he says, telling me that he started out tap dancing before meeting a casting manager at a competition and moving out to California with his mum at just nine and a half years old.
Since then Buchanan has racked up a diverse range of acting credits, from family drama The Fosters to political thriller Designated Survivor. But it’s his role as brooding bad boy Robby Keene in hit series Cobra Kai that’s been getting him attention recently, after the show moved to Netflix and snagged the #1 trending spot on the streaming platform.
(LEFT) All clothing and accessories by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA XXX.
All clothing and accessories by ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA XXX.
“This person had layers,” he says of the character, referring to Robby’s development from being a sarcastic and conniving thief to becoming more grounded as a karate student. “He was dealt such a bad hand of cards in his life and he’s really just trying to figure out what the right thing is to do and who the right people are to be surrounded by. Really, deep down, Robby does want to be something and he doesn’t want to just throw his life down the drain. He wants to better himself and to truly create a life that he’s happy with.”
As part of the iconic The Karate Kid universe, the show’s premise is set over 30 years from the end of the original 1984 film and focuses on the ongoing rivalry between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Tensions run high with intense fights between their duelling dojos, but Buchanan emphasises this isn’t a crystal clear hero-versus-enemy story. “The original movie was all about, ‘Yeah, there is a good guy and there’s a bad guy,’” he explains. “But this whole series, and I think why so many people can relate to both sides, is each character in this series is literally just a human being.”
(LEFT) All clothing by BOSS BY HUGO BOSS. (RIGHT) All clothing by DIESEL.
All clothing by BOSS BY HUGO BOSS. All clothing by DIESEL.
Underneath the coordinated scenes of round kicks to the chest or fistfights between students, the show’s message is deeper and more meaningful than
what it may seem. “I want people to see the fact that sometimes like I said, you’re a human being. Sometimes you make mistakes,” he states simply, with his character’s actions in the series two finales in mind. “You can’t go through life without making mistakes.”
Whilst Robby is angsty and reserved, friendly and open Buchanan doesn’t find much in common with his character. “I think that’s the whole point that I love about it — that it isn’t that close to my personal life, but I get to do a lot of homework and research and have fun with that to really find the character and make sure that I keep growing the character,” he says, referencing the fact that he has a supportive and involved family while his character lacks a strong relationship with his distant parents. “They support me my entire life and have always been on my side. It’s basically the complete opposite of what Robby’s life is like.” It’s now been over a decade since Buchanan made that move to California and began appearing on the silver screen, and he has no plans to stop soon. “I do have those moments where I look back and I’m like, ‘This really has been more than half my life now,’” he says in awe with a brief chuckle. “It doesn’t seem like that. It seems like it’s gone so quick. It feels like just yesterday I came out here and started. So sometimes it’s a little surreal because I feel extremely lucky. Most people don’t get this chance, and I was lucky enough to have parents that supported me and my dreams.”
When asked about his career aspirations, the 21-year-old is giddy with excitement at the prospect of new and challenging roles. “I mean, there is some stuff that I would like to create on my own,” he muses. “But my main goal is, really, just to play a bunch of different characters in my career [and to] be able to create a message to someone.” With the talent, range and ambition he has demonstrated so far, Buchanan leaves no doubt he’ll continue to do just that.
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All clothing by VALENTINO
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