Published on August 2nd, 2019 | by Landon Buford0
Actor Jesse Kove on “D-Day,” Growing Up in Hollywood, and Working with His Legendary Father
Jesse Kove is an actor best known for his role alongside Joseph Fiennes in “On Wings of Eagles” (the unofficial sequel to “Chariots of Fire”). Son of pop-culture icon Martin Kove (Sensei Kreese in “Karate Kid” and “Cobra Kai”), the 6’2” superhero-in-the-making was born in Los Angeles and raised in the world of film, television, and theatre. At the age of 10, he spent his time creating movies using his father’s camera and performing skits for the family.
Through his younger years and up into high school, he studied at a variety of performing arts and improv classes, continuing to cultivate his cinematic craft and even venturing off to New York to perform off-Broadway. Jesse went on to appear in an array of tv and film projects, and even took on the task of producer for the teen crime thriller “As Night Comes.” Jesse currently leads the cast of the upcoming film “D-Day” (in theaters September 13th) alongside MMA fighters Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, as well as Weston Cage Coppola (Nicolas Cage’s son). “D-Day” commemorates the 75th anniversary of Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy, France to fight the Nazis in World War II. I caught up with Jesse to discuss working on “D-Day,” growing up on Hollywood, and more.
You play First SGT Lommell in “D-Day.” When you first received the script, what intrigued you about the project compared to some of your other roles?
My character was very interesting the way he was written. I wanted him to be likable, and wanted to portray him as a wildcard kind of guy with hardheaded wit and a stubborn soul, who you trust with your life. To me, in the back of my mind, he was always like a western gunslinger. I love history. I’ve always been an enormous connoisseur of history. Where we came from, how we got here, the battles that were fought, the people and their own personal stories have always been of interest to me.
I also love personally, going back in time into these character’s shoes – whether real or fictional – and being able to create upon how they think or feel, especially in that time period. I care about these characters and want to do them justice and show their journey. This story has not been told very often – the battle of Pointe Du Hoc was very unique and extremely dangerous, and men died fighting for the cause. It was an honor to portray one of the heroic soldiers who helped lead our boys to victory alongside Colonel Rudder, played by my dear friend Weston Cage Coppola.
Would you like to play something similar in the future if approached?
Absolutely. I had such a great time with this character. It was loads of fun, but also challenging at the same time, which are the kind of characters I personally fall in love with. Challenging yet fun, and interesting at the same time. Because when you have fun, you’re able to let go and truly explore the character.
At the age of ten, you created your own movie using your father’s video camera. Can you talk about that experience?
Yes, it’s one of my great memories from childhood. My father and I always used to play with the little plastic soldiers, army men, cowboys and Indians, and World War II soldiers. We would create huge battles. I would sneak his camera into one of my battles and pretend that I was filming the soldiers in a movie. This was the inception of my film making as a boy and my love for storytelling.
I was also lucky enough to have grown up on movie sets with my father, so I believe this helped me in being able to connect the two and create my own movies – and on a five-dollar budget. It’s kind of a funny circle of events. Lifeworks in funny ways, because one of the locations we shot at on the beach for “D-Day” was actually one of the very same places I used to go to as a boy to create those battles with my toy soldiers. And now I was one of those soldiers being filmed telling their story.
How beneficial has that experience been in both the independent films and the studio productions you have been a part of?
It’s a tough answer. Sometimes when you’re doing independent films, there is so much passion involved and so much on the line in wanting to tell the story. There can be a bit of pressure to really dive deep in a shorter amount of time. And there is something beautiful about that on its own. And with bigger budgets, there can also be a lot of pressure as well, and also a little more room to breathe. At the end of the day, I always prefer to have as much authenticity as I can. Whether created out of imagination or built-in front of me in a sound stage.
Your father (Martin Kove) is also an actor in Hollywood. As a child, did you feel the pressure to live up to his legacy?
You know the funny thing about this is that my father actually never wanted me to be in the film ministry, for obvious reasons. It’s such an up-and-down business: when it’s good, it’s good, and when it’s bad, it’s bad. And then there’s the place in between. So he never pressured me to jump in. When I was in high school, I was in a lot of the plays and in all the film classes. I also grew up watching my father on different movie sets all over the world, and they became a second home to me.
I loved it. I was 18 when I fully took the leap of faith and decided to do it professionally. It’s been an incredible journey and I have no regrets. My father and I have since done about six movies together and we plan on doing many more. One of our dreams is to be on a TV series where we both get to go to work together and create characters and have amazing story arcs for years. It’s like camp for us. We just have a blast because we are best friends.
What is the best advice you received at the beginning of your career, and who was it from?
Life isn’t just going to hand you opportunities. You have to pick up the phone and make the calls. You have to be relentless, and you have to do it with class. Something my dad taught me many years ago.
If you could speak with a class of aspiring actors and actress, what is something you would share with them about the industry?
Fortunately, I’ve spoken in front of a few acting classes. I am always so humbled if I ever get a chance to do this. I usually go in and talk about how, in this industry, you get kicked down so much. You have to have the skin of a rhino in the heart of a lion. Because it’s just like the saying, “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” You’ve heard the stories before, people living in their cars, staying on a friend’s couch. Getting turned down over and over again, and then booking that one project that changes their life.
What would you consider to be your dream character or role to play?
I don’t know. I feel like every character is different and every story is a new opportunity. I am always so personally moved when my characters are able to tell a story that changes other peoples’ lives when they watch it. Those are the kind of characters that I like to watch. When I see another actor tell a story that moves me to the point of tears or makes me want to change something in my life, I feel that those are the most powerful characters and those are the type of roles I love to step into.