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Martin Kove as Glenn in `A Taste of Love` on the Hallmark Channel. The film premieres at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. (Credit: ©2024 Hallmark Media/photographer: Courtesy Digital Caviar)
Martin Kove as Glenn in "A Taste of Love" on the Hallmark Channel. The film premieres at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. (Credit: ©2024 Hallmark Media/photographer: Courtesy Digital Caviar)

Q&A: 'Nice guy' Martin Kove shows sensitive side in new Hallmark Channel film

by jmaloni
Wed, Feb 14th 2024 08:30 pm

‘Karate Kid,’ ‘Cobra Kai,’ ‘Cagney & Lacey,’ western film star appears alongside son, Jesse, and Erin Cahill in ‘A Taste of Love’

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni


Martin Kove is really good at being a really bad guy.

The actor has made a career out of playing wicked, corrupt, immoral, depraved, debauched, unscrupulous, ruthless, merciless and cruel characters including, most famously, sensei John Kreese in “The Karate Kid” and “Cobra Kai.”

But Kove wants you to know those on-screen roles are not really representative of who he is – or of his softer side, which is not often seen in film or on streaming.

To that end, he is costarring in the new film “A Taste of Romance,” debuting Monday on the Hallmark Channel. The story centers on Taylor (Erin Cahill), a frustrated TV chef who returns home to find her family’s restaurant up for sale; and her ex, Jacob (Kove’s son, Jesse), whom she still has feelings for despite their breakup.

While it might be odd to see someone shooting at Chuck Norris in “Walker, Texas Ranger” one day, hassling Sylvester Stallone’s iconic character in “Rambo” the next day, and then appearing on a network currently spotlighting Jane Austen, the man who coined the phrase “No mercy” said this was one of his favorite film projects.

Not only that, Kove is working on a passion project meant to inspire children – even as he’s on set reprising his role as youth-corrupting Kreese for the final season of “Cobra Kai” on Netflix.

Throughout his career, Kove has proven his ability to work across genres – everything from “Kojak,” “The Rockford Files” and “Diagnosis Murder” to “The Incredible Hulk,” “Starsky and Hutch” and “Tales from the Crypt.” He starred alongside Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in seven seasons of “Cagney & Lacey,” and with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie in “Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood.”

At 76, Kove isn’t ready to retire – and looks like he still could kick the living Miyagi-Do out of all of us.

He shared more in this edited Q&A.

Martin Kove play’s Erin Cahill’s chef father in “A Taste of Love” on the Hallmark Channel. (Credit: ©2024 Hallmark Media/photographer: Courtesy Digital Caviar)


Q: Martin, I’ve got to say, I have enjoyed you in many different things. I've seen you on screen in many different capacities over the years. I think this is the first time I've seen you in a kitchen. You certainly have many skills in real life. Is being in the kitchen and cooking one of those skills?

Martin Kove: I don’t have as much patience as my character.

I really enjoyed that role a lot. I think you have like five projects over all the years that you can say you had a great time in, socially and artistically.

I remember adding to that list probably an episode of “Cagney & Lacey;” or “Wyatt Earp” with Kevin Costner; or “The Gambler” I had a great time in. And you can remember those. The others are good; they’re just jobs and things. But this specific project was a gas. I mean, not only did I get a chance to work with a producer I loved, that I worked with on westerns – which is what I love to do – but working with my son and working with Erin.

Erin was just brilliant, and she played my daughter. And working with her in the kitchen, it allowed me to feel this comfort zone when, normally in the kitchen, I don't have as much patience. I like cooking. But I don’t have as much patience for the sauces and the seasonings and all of that. I like it, but I just don't have enough patience to do it, because I get hungry or whatever.

I'm shooting here in Atlanta. You're in an apartment; it's very nice and all that, but, you're busy – you’re just doing things. And it's always much more fun to prepare cooking with someone else, you know? Even if you're making guacamole, you know, everybody's got two people in there and you're putting in tastes of this, tastes of that.

So, by and large, I love that. I love “A Taste of Love,” and I also love that I learned how to do certain things like cutting, and what cheeses you'll cut one way, vegetables you'll cut another way. The special way to hold the knife to dice things. That was cool. I never thought (I would do that); I do things with guns and horses.

Q: You mentioned you're familiar with the producer. You had a chance to work with your son on this project. You've been in movies similar to this before, but I don't know that you've done a Hallmark movie. Was this your first experience working with Hallmark?

Martin Kove: Yeah. The movies we did before were with a producer, Larry Levinson, also produced by Lincoln Lageson, who produced this, and they were westerns. “Hard Ground,” it was called, with Burt Reynolds and Bruce Dern. A lot of fun; good western. And I did about four different movies for Larry Levison. I don't think that they made Hallmark; I think they were a little too hard for Hallmark. But I've always wanted to.

You know, I really enjoy playing the nice guy. I mean, I cry at supermarket openings. You know, everybody always thinks (I’m a bad guy) because of “The Karate Kid” character and “Rambo” and all the tough guys I played. I enjoy playing characters like this one in “Taste of Love.” I like playing romantic and soft things, where I can emote. And even the moments in “Cobra Kai” are my favorite. Like last night, I did a scene with Tory, with Peyton List, and it's my favorite to be soft and gentle and vulnerable. I don’t get a chance to do it very often. But I did in this movie. I really did.

I think it is my first one that was labeled Hallmark. There might have been one or two others through Larry Levinson. It was a couple of mysteries, a couple of contemporary pieces. And I did two westerns. So, there's four projects that I did for him, and I think some of them landed on Hallmark, but I’m not sure.

Erin Cahill and Jesse Kove star in in “A Taste of Love” on the Hallmark Channel. The film premieres at 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19. (Credit: ©2024 Hallmark Media/photographer: Courtesy Digital Caviar)


Q: You know, it's interesting. You talk about public perception. I think that people not familiar with your extensive resume might be a little surprised to see you working in a Hallmark movie. But, certainly, you've established yourself as a diverse actor. You mentioned the types of characters you've played. I've talked with people who have played similar characters, and they've been just the nicest, most reasonable, respectful people in real life. I've heard that you are very much the same way. When people meet you, are they surprised to see that you are this nice, chill, sort of very normal, very successful actor?

Martin Kove: They are. I have to admit they are.

Sometimes it annoys me, because I like the vulnerability of characters. And especially in “Cobra Kai” and “Karate Kid,” they all think you're that tough guy.

My daughter and I, we had a podcast called “Kicking It With The Koves,” and we brought out the three writers from “Cobra Kai.” And when they met me and made the deal, in L.A., I think it was Dan Tana's restaurant, they were concerned that, when they told me I was going to come in episode 10, season one, they thought I'd be pi$$ed off because I’d want to come in earlier. Episode 5 is good. Episode 6. And I did feel that way. But they thought – and they confessed to this on the podcast – I had never heard it previously, until last year – that they were nervous that I was going to kick their a$$ because I didn't want to come in on episode 10. I wanted to come in earlier. And they thought I was going to be legitimately pi$$ed off. They thought that the character that, literally they saw on the screen, was the character that they were worried about – they thought that's who I am, for sure.

Q: With regard to “A Taste of Love,” Jesse is the lead in this movie. It's great you had an opportunity to work with him. What can you tell me about Jesse as an actor? If people are seeing his work, maybe for the first time in this project, what can they look forward to, as far as what he brings to the screen and to this role?

Martin Kove: Well, what's really interesting is that, my son, he listens very well. I work with him on auditions, and I don't have to do it much anymore. He just uses his instruments.

I made the mistake of trying to be Steve McQueen for the first 25 years of my career, you know, and I was always primping and posing and doing things to try to be Steve McQueen. Even throughout the years of “Cagney & Lacey,” I would get a chance to use myself, but still I was trying to do Steve McQueen.

He doesn't have that problem. He taps into his own instrument. I just did a western with him. He plays a guy who – we shot in Florida – it's someone who makes a deal with the devil, and he's a coward, and he wants to become the best gun in the West. And he makes a deal with the devil. And the devil won't let it renege after he kills too many people.

I'm in it, in a guardian angel part, and it was great to see him deal with all the different (situations). As a lead in a movie, you deal with all the characters. And he just was wonderful. Weakness; and then into the gunfighter role; and then into what he has to do in the end to get out of killing people, and be with his lady. He's wonderful.

I've seen this movie on the big screen. I was at the Dunedin Film Festival recently, and they showed it. It was wonderful. He's wonderful. And he starred in a movie at Christmastime for Lifetime, and he was really good.

And it isn't the father talking about the son. It's not that game. He's so charismatic and romantic looking and handsome – he’s like a young Cary Grant. So, I think it's just a matter of time before he just sort of moves into his own film that'll make some noise in town.

Q: Your children are obviously in the entertainment industry. That's not necessarily something that parents are always super-jazzed about. As I said, you've been a successful actor; you've been doing this for a number of years. When you found out your children were also looking to get into this world, were you apprehensive or were you excited? What was the emotion?

Martin Kove: I never really, honestly, pushed them into the business. Based on the kind of rejection that one gets in the industry, it's frustrating – and I didn't want to put that on the kids. So, I never, ever, really, pushed them into the business.

My daughter loves to sing, and she was in this movie. I got her a little part in “A Gunfighter’s Deal,” the western. She's got a great voice, and yet she's a life coach. So, it's interesting. They did it on their own.

Jesse went off and did an Off-Broadway play when he was 18, that was moved from Los Angeles to New York. So, he plowed the pavements with a little portfolio when he was 18, in Manhattan, like I did, and he liked it. So, he stayed with it.

But I've never ever pushed; I’ve never pushed him into the business. It's too difficult. The business is too difficult to push kids into.

Jesse Kove stars as Erin Cahill’s love interest in “A Taste of Love.” (Credit: ©2024 Hallmark Media/photographer: Courtesy Digital Caviar)


Q: You are approaching 250 acting credits, believe it or not. What continues to excite you, to challenge you, to motivate you to continue to act?

Martin Kove: Well, this one project that we're doing now, called “The Prodigal Son,” is a comic book, and it's about heroes. I grew up with all the heroes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and all that in the western genre. And I don't think kids today have any heroes. I don't think the Marvel comic book heroes are heroes; they’re special effects heroes. They're not real heroes. I want kids to have heroes, these days, and I'd like to leave the legacy of this project.

It's about a 12-year-old kid and an old gunfighter – me – who bond together and have an exchange of moral values between themselves, and move into the world of taking care of the bad guys and their mission. But there's enough there for a heroic older man to be identified with, and a kid to be identified with, because they exchange so much in the form of values and morals.

I wanted to do that project so that kids have a sense of heroism and what it’s like. I don't think there's anybody out there that the kids identify with in that vein.

So, what motivates me is to try and make this project work. Bring back the western. Guys like Taylor Sheridan (“Yellowstone”) are doing it. Everything Kevin Costner makes is a western – it all just falls into the framework, whether it's “Waterworld” or “The Postman.”

I just love that genre as the first American cinematic heritage that came about, circa 1903, when Thomas Edison made a movie called “The Great Train Robbery.” That was a western, and it was silent, and yet it started our fascination with cinema.

So, when I stop acting, and, you know, and I’m just hanging out with the dog, and the book, and the cigar, I really want to have accomplished that – for the kids, for children. That's it.

It's what keeps me going, is trying to establish that out there. I can't be the actor who rejuvenated the western, because you got Kevin and you got Taylor Sheridan who are doing it already. But maybe the legacy could be the western hero is revisited by Marty Kove.

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