Vanessa Rubio Teases Carmen's Season 5 Journey (Interview)

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 4, streaming now on Netflix.

While Cobra Kai focuses on the reignited martial arts rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, the decades-long feud has spread to a new generation of aspiring karate students, including the impressionable high schooler Miguel Diaz. The teenage son of Johnny's neighbor Carmen and her mother Rosa, Miguel has been through an emotional rollercoaster that has brought the Diaz family to some meteoric highs and heartbreaking lows. While Carmen is still understandably cautious for Miguel's wellbeing, she has also grown closer to Johnny, with the two neighbors striking up a quiet romance.

In an exclusive interview with CBR, Cobra Kai series star Vanessa Rubio discussed how Carmen raises her son amidst an all-out karate feud, praised her co-stars and the show's diehard fans. Also, Rubio also teased where Carmen is at mentally following Season 4's cliffhanger ending.

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Vanessa, it's been over a year since Cobra Kai made the jump to Netflix, and the series is doing Super Bowl numbers, with Season 4 in Netflix's Top 10. How has the transition been both from fan reaction and on-set?

Vanessa Rubio: Amazing! It keeps blowing my expectations and my mind. The love and wonderful reception to the show continue to grow and be amazing. We cook these things up in our creative ways and send them out and sometimes they come back just beating your expectations. Just to know that it's a worldwide hit is so big. Yes, people in the U.S. love it, but to see the numbers worldwide, whoa [laughs]!

Even though you've been a part of the show since the beginning, Season 4 marks you officially becoming a series regular. How has it been carrying Carmen's relationship with Miguel and Johnny forward?

It's wonderful. I think the story between her and Johnny is a sweet one. [Also] definitely between her and Miguel, but I think the one between her and Johnny is the one we're all [wondering] what's going to happen and waiting at the edge of our seats. I hope it all works out between them: if it doesn't, I think they forged a really solid friendship between them. One of my favorite things, in Season 3 when they were kind of on the rocks, they would have these run-ins with each other and they're talking to each other. That was really sweet for me because I think every solid relationship is built on a solid friendship. I think that laid the groundwork in Season 3 really nicely and we'll see where it goes.

Carmen has seen Johnny at his best but also at his worst: she's been there for the whole gamut. What do you think Carmen sees in Johnny that makes that relationship work?

I think what's never going to go away is her perspective of him as a positive figure in her son's life, stepping in and making mistakes but always trying and leading with his heart. I think she sees that he has good intentions. Sometimes they don't meet their mark but his willingness to get his hands dirty -- in terms of living a life with her and Miguel, coming over for dinner, and these types of things. I think that always draws her in and she's definitely aware that, on the outside, he's not the perfect guy, and he missed a lot of lessons along the way. But she offers a sense of home and stability and nurturing that he really needs. She lives her life in a really direct way. This is how she's living her life. She's not really changing it. I think he's the factor that needs to change if he wants to come join her.

RELATED: Cobra Kai Star, Co-Creator Discuss Anthony LaRusso's Surprising Character Turn

Everything Carmen does, she does for family and they're in a much happier place since the end of Season 2. How has your working relationship with Xolo Maridueña and Rose Bianco grown?

It's pretty sweet, and I think, as a cast, we've grown in a lot of ways. It's a wonderful thing to celebrate that Cobra Kai has had this success, and you're able to come back and create more with each other. That's a wonderful thing. Xolo has grown into such a wonderful person. He always was but his sense of humor and levity and wild imagination is just so fun to be around. Rosa and I have come together where I can't not see her as a mother figure. We have lunch together and all that. It's just nice, the relationship with her, and she's hilarious. I feel like her and her character, they just don't give two effs anymore. They're just living free and sharing their opinions.

With Billy [Zabka], it's just wonderful. I think Billy and I have always found ourselves in situations where we just have to be vulnerable and trusting with each other. It's continued to be that way and it's wonderful. We get to go on this journey discovering what else comes up in our scenes.

I feel like in Season 4, you get to really share scenes with Ralph Macchio and Courtney Henggeler in the biggest way since the double date at the Mexican restaurant in Season 2. On some level, Carmen and Amanda LaRusso recognize how ridiculous and absurd all these karate rivalries really are.

You're right. That's the groundwork between them. The unsaid words between them are "This is ridiculous, we're living in a crazy environment right now." I really love their burgeoning friendship because they're the two mothers of the Valley with influence. In Season 4, one of my favorite scenes is Daniel and Johnny fighting, and I imagined Carmen and Amanda would just be like, "Finally! Just hash it out already!" Playing off of Courtney and Ralph is wonderful. Courtney is hilarious and we have so much fun on set together. Ralph is the epitome of professionalism and generousness. He is endlessly giving and that's something I'll take away from my experience working on this show.

The end of Season 4 really sets up Carmen and her family to play a big role in Season 5 as we learn there's more to her than meets the eye. Where do you think she is mentally at the end of the season?

I think it's all starting to unravel, confronting a lot of those ghosts from the past for her. Miguel, he's always the driving force in developing this character. Writing is always a big part of it for me. It especially came in handy forming the perspective and relationship with Miguel because that's basically the force that's been pushing her forward in her life, causing her to step up and take more responsibilities than she thought she would at eighteen.

She's had to become a mother young and he's become the driving force of her life, leading her to fight more and go for more. He is that, even in his young adult teenager ways, continuing to push those boundaries. Whether she likes that or not, she has to open the doors and have them opened for her and confront the past. She has a little runaway in her somewhere that needs to be healed.

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Did you know your character's backstory from the beginning or did you come up with your own while the production began to gradually unveil Carmen's history to you each season?

It's funny because that does display that the actor's creative journey and the production might not always match up. I've had to fill in a lot of the blanks on my own because I don't think the production had written it out yet. I asked a lot of questions and tried my best to get some intel but I think it was a bit vague for me, the information that I got. I had to fill in the details because for me, creatively, details are everything. We're going to have to see how that plays out in Season 5 and I think that's all I can say [laughs]!

Were there any specific lines or seasons where you got information to help crack the character and performance?

Near the end of Season 4, I had to get as many details as I could from them because, if this is eliciting this kind of reaction, I really need to know more information. I wished there was more detail but what they did tell me was enough for me to place Miguel's father in my mind, that kind of character. I just had to work off of that.

Where do you personally want to see Carmen and Johnny go into Season 5?

I want them to be a badass family with his off-the-cuff style. I want that style to influence the Diaz family and for them to influence him and have a sort of humorous family dynamic come together. He has to mend his wounds with Robby, and Robby has to be introduced to everything. I would love to see that happen!

Created by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, all four kickass seasons of Cobra Kai are available to stream now on Netflix.

KEEP READING: Cobra Kai: Will Sam Be the Next Student to Switch Sides?

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Sam Stone is a 10th level pop culture guru living just outside of Washington, DC who knows an unreasonable amount about The Beatles. You can follow him on Twitter @samstoneshow and ask him about Nintendo, pop punk, and Star Trek.

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