21-year-old actress Mary Mouser is carrying on the “Karate Kid” legacy with her starring role in the recently-released Youtube Red Series, “Cobra Kai.” Mouser plays Samantha La Rousso, the karate-fighting daughter of Daniel La Rousso, the original Karate Kid. Mouser has also appeared in ABC’s “Body of Proof,” CBS’s “NCIS” and the CW’s “Life is Wild.” We caught up with the up-and-coming star and chatted about her experience playing Samantha, her activist work and advice for aspiring actors.
How did you get into acting?
I was actually on vacation with my family in Pennsylvania when I was five, and a family friend told my mom about an open casting call in town. We went for fun and I ended up being the photo double for the movie “Signs!” It was a blast and I was in love right away.
You star in YouTube series “Cobra Kai.” Can you tell us about your role as Samantha LaRusso?
Samantha LaRusso is the daughter of Daniel LaRusso, the original Karate Kid. She was so much fun to play. She’s got her dad’s heart in the end, but she’s still got some lessons to learn. She’s figuring out popularity, and what it means to be cool and fit in versus being true to what you believe in.
What was the most challenging part of the role?
It was challenging to figure out how to play the “popular crowd” aspect of Sam. I was definitely never a cool kid in school; I was a total nerd. But it was fun to be in the in-crowd for a minute.
What was it like being the only female fighter in the series?
I had a blast getting to kick butt, and it was even more fun knowing that I was getting to be a girl 15-year-old-me could look up to.
You work actively with JDRF to raise funding and awareness for Type 1 Diabetes. Can you tell us a bit about your work with the organization?
I am personally Type 1 Diabetic myself, so I became involved by going to [JDRF’s] yearly walks and events. I was searching for a community within this hand that had been dealt to me, but I found so much more than that—I found a really amazing group of people with a common goal, finding a cure for T1D. I’ve gotten to speak at events, talk to Congressmen about funding and travel with the charity. I hope to keep getting involved wherever I can.
Are there any other causes you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about many causes. I’m proud to be in a generation that’s putting its foot down on so many issues that have gone untouched for too long. I’m proud to be a young woman in this age especially, and I’m excited to see what’s around the corner for all of us as we work together to stand up for ourselves and others.
You turn 22 soon! What are you most looking forward to in the next year?
Singing that Taylor Swift song on my birthday! No, but actually, I’m incredibly excited for what the next year will bring. I can’t wait to see what people think of the show as it premiered in my birthday month! But I never really know what’s around the corner, which keeps me on my toes!
What advice would you give to other young women pursuing acting?
I would tell young women, as well as others, that it takes a strong back bone and a strong support system. Acting is an incredible job. It really seems too good to even call it that. It can take a toll on your self-esteem if you let it. Keep coming back to why you began in the first place—for me it’s the fun, from five-years-old to now. [Acting] has always been as much my theme park as it is my career. And don’t let anyone tell you who you are. People try to typecast or put you in the box that makes sense to them, but you’re more than even you know—explore that.