A phone interview with Griffin Santopietro, 14, began with this reporter falling for a trick voicemail message: “Hello! [long pause] I’m just kidding. I’m not here right now.”
It’s a typical teenage prank by a teenager from West Hartford with a not-so-typical day job.
Santopietro stars in “Cobra Kai,” a Netflix series based on the “Karate Kid” movie franchise from the 1980s that premieres its third season Jan. 8. He also appeared in a Netflix movie called “The Week Of” starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.
Santopietro was born in Maine, lived down south for a bit, in New Canaan for a while and now lives in West Hartford. It was when he was in North Carolina that he discovered his talent for acting. He began doing theater, then his mom signed him up to perform for agents in a talent search. His first role was around 10 or 11 years old; he played the child of a parent who was getting arrested on a cop show.
“When I was little watching a TV show, I was always thinking about what it would be like if I were on it ... I realized this is definitely what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “I like the escapism about it; it doesn’t feel like work, per se. It’s like a fun thing that I’m doing. It’s kind of like a relaxing thing ... I almost find it soothing.”
Three years ago, Santopietro auditioned for “Cobra Kai,” in which he plays Anthony LaRusso, the son of Daniel LaRusso played by Ralph Macchio, the original Karate Kid.
“I watched the original ‘Karate Kid’ [movies] to prepare,” said Santopietro. “My grandpa, when I was little, always made me watch older movies and ‘Karate Kid’ was one of those. I remember it vividly.”William Zabka, who played Johhny in the original movies, also stars in the remake. Santopietro said he enjoys hearing stories from the original cast, such as one that Macchio tells about how he caught a fly with chopsticks in the film.
“Everyone on the show is really great. It’s a really fun community to be around,” he said.
Another major project for Santopietro — and one of his first ones — was “The Week Of.”
“Whenever you meet a famous person, you worry they’ll be mean or something, but Adam Sandler was the nicest guy,” he said. “Chris Rock was also very nice and really funny. If there was ever an awkward moment, he would make everyone laugh and feel better.”
Despite his work being readily available on Netflix, Santopietro said he does not gather with his family to watch his shows and movies.
“It would be weird if we all sat around to watch me,” he said. “I don’t hate watching myself, but I don’t like it when there are other people in the room. I try and give myself constructive criticism, so if there are other people, I can’t concentrate. My mom watches, but not with me.”
And if he wasn’t humble enough already, Santopietro said his friends keep him grounded.
“We’re friends not because of what I’m doing. They dont really care about it and are not constantly talking to me about it,” he said. “I pretty much still have a normal high school life, which I am very happy about.”
After school, Santopietro plans to move to New York City to continue to pursue acting. He would like to do more dramatic movies, and is inspired by actors like Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, so Los Angeles is also an option for him.
“I refuse to live anywhere else, though — it’s LA or NYC.”