Netflix is the place to be for some of the most action-packed shows that the small screen has to offer, ranging from surprise smash Stranger Things to the rescued Cobra Kai. These two shows occupy different genres, and the sci-fi horror action of one isn't exactly interchangeable with the more practical stunts of the other. That said, Stranger Things and Cobra Kai share a stunt coordinator in Hiro Koda, and he spoke with CinemaBlend about doing stunts for the shows, and the differences between them.
Hiro Koda has worked on many shows produced for traditional weekly release on networks, including shows like Law & Order True Crime, Big Little Lies, and The Outsider as well as tackling streaming series like Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, and even less genre series like Ozark. Speaking with CinemaBlend's Nick Venable about his work as stunt coordinator, he revealed whether working on a streaming show like Stranger Things made his life easier than working on network shows:
Oh, yeah, I mean, definitely. Of the different shows that I've been a part of, [there are] the shows that just don't have the time to do things, and then the shows that you do have the time to kind of get through it. And it is much more of, I guess, a luxury to be able to have the prep time and stuff on shows to get things prepped and ready to go and rehearse. That's the wonderful thing about Stranger Things is we do have the time, and if there's something that I need to rehearse, or prep, or previz, I shoot all my previz (previsualization) with my stunt folks before I put the actors into a rehearsal. And with that stunt previz, it's a live previz that I shoot, and I present that to the directors of the episodes and the producers and sorta get feedback from them: what they liked, what they didn't like, if we need to change anything. It's just the ideas of what I'm designing. So once that's settled, then I can bring the actors into rehearse, and having that luxury and time to do that, it makes things so much easier and easier on me, just because safety is my number one concern. You know, making sure everybody stays safe, it's important to me.
Hiro Koda also opened up about the deadly Season 3 fight with Stranger Things' Hopper, which was arguably the climax of the season and took a lot of detail to really nail. If such a pivotal scene was produced on a network show with network resources and scheduling, it likely wouldn't have packed the kind of punch it did.
That's not to say that all streaming shows are created equal, and it's worth noting that there was no saying back before July 2016 that anybody would even watch Stranger Things, let alone launch it into arguably Netflix's biggest streaming hit ever. Cobra Kai is a different kind of show, not least because it was originally produced for YouTube Red and will only become a full Netflix original with Season 3, presumably next year.
Hiro Koda went on to explain the difference between Stranger Things and Cobra Kai, as one example from his body of work. The stunt coordinator shared:
Then you get these shows when you just don't have the time. It tends to happen on Stranger Things, as well. But on other shows – Cobra Kai, for example – we don't have the time to shoot anything. We'll put these massive things together because that's what the script is writing. And I'm like, 'If you guys don't want all of this in here, then don't write it. We gotta change it a little bit. Because it's just too much. If we don't have the time, you gotta change things.' But they're like, 'We can do it, we can do it!' And we always end up pulling it off in the end. Being on set on the day, and we're just shooting through it as fast as we can, making sure everything's safe during the action that we need to do. But then, you know, if we're running out of time, it's like an on-the-spot timing of trying to figure out what can we do to alter this a little bit, or shorten it, and still keep the point and to still keep the action designed the way it was, and get that story point across still.
Cobra Kai doesn't always have the same time allowances as Stranger Things. Of course, Cobra Kai's stunts are very different than Stranger Things', considering the sci-fi elements that have to be included along with the practical effects in the latter. Something tells me that Cobra Kai Season 3 isn't going to feature any melding monsters from a parallel universe! Both shows definitely have their merits, but I just don't see even the Demogorgon crossing over to Cobra Kai.
In all seriousness, Stranger Things and Cobra Kai viewers can attest to the fact that Hiro Koda and those he works with can pull off massive stunt sequences that are positively cinematic, and hard to find elsewhere on television. That said, Koda shared the "beauty" of working on television as opposed to cinema for feature films, saying:
That's the beauty of what I love about television is you have to be on your toes all the time. If you work on a feature film, you get lots of prep time before the movie starts, and then once the film starts, you're shooting through. Obviously, things change as you go. But with television, it's so fast-paced and you're in the middle of shooting a block of two different episodes at the same time, and while you're shooting, you're ending up prepping the next block, which is another two different episodes. So you're always on your toes, and you're always busy and moving, and it just keeps you going.
To use Stranger Things as an example again, seasons of that show typically aren't even written in full before production begins, and that's not always the case with streaming shows that have far shorter runs than traditional broadcast series, although premium cable and sometimes even broadcast networks have embraced more limited series-length seasons in recent years.
As long as stunt coordinators like Hiro Koda continue to work in television, viewers can look forward to the kind of action that likely never would have made it to TV before the advent of streaming platforms. There's a reason why weekly release shows on the scale of Game of Thrones don't exactly happen all the time, whereas projects like The Witcher (also on Netflix) can tackle the same genre on a grand (if not Thrones-level) scale.
Fortunately, Netflix offers several of Hiro Koda's very worthwhile projects streaming now. The first three seasons of Stranger Things are of course available to tide fans over during what could be a long wait for Season 4, and the two current seasons of Cobra Kai can be watched and rewatched ahead of the third season. Ozark is available as well, and the end is nigh for that particular show!