Tanner Buchanan Is Ready for Take-off

Tanner Buchanan Is Ready for Take-off

Tanner Buchanan Is Ready for Take-off

The Cobra Kai and He’s All That star shows no sign of slowing down.  

The Cobra Kai and He’s All That star shows no sign of slowing down.  

Photography: Connor Franta

Styling: Miso Dam

Text: Luana Harumi

Watching Tanner Buchanan smoothly going from a hurt son to standing up to bullies and throwing solid kicks and punches, it’s hard to imagine that he was once a funny-looking boy with “a pretty bad bowl cut, big thick glasses and big buck teeth” who had never considered acting before. And yet, that’s what the 22-year-old has been doing for over half of his life now.

While many industry players say they were definitely theater kids or art aficionados in school, Buchanan was more of the let’s-try-everything type growing up. He was just nine years old when he was approached by talent scouts at a tap dance competition he was participating in in New York. Drawn by his features, they asked if he had ever tried acting, which quickly ignited a welcome curiosity in the boy.

“My teeth were too big for my head. It's what they like to call a very ‘character look,’” the actor says over a Zoom call. “It's a nice way of saying that you basically look ‘nerdy.’”

Photo by Connor Franta. Full look: Saint Laurent. Necklace: Cartier. Bracelet: Cartier.

Soon, the Ohio native and his parents found themselves moving from the midwestern town of Lima to Los Angeles, “for six months, to see what happens.” They never left.

Since then, Buchanan has collected his fair share of roles, including a rebellious First Son and a sensible, socially awkward orphan. But most viewers will probably recognize him as the angsty karate fighter Robby Keene, from The Karate Kid revival series Cobra Kai.

The comedy-drama is set three decades after the events of the first movie and picks up on the martial arts rivalry between Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence and their new generation of karate students – including Johnny’s son, Robby. The show had been cultivating a small but loyal fan base since its debut on YouTube’s premium subscription platform in 2018. Then, in 2020, it moved to Netflix, where it became a massive quarantine hit, snatching the top most-watched spot with 50 million accounts watching it in the first month, according to the streamer.

“It was shocking, to be honest,” Buchanan says. “We'd already spent three years making the show, and we were all just putting hard work into [it] and making sure we delivered something that viewers would like.” He continues, “To see it happen that quickly, it just made me really happy. I'm extremely grateful that everyone loves the show, and that we can continue making it.”

Season four is set to drop in December and, although the actor can’t reveal much, he confirms his character will have to make very important decisions and experience significant growth: “It’s definitely a roller coaster.” 

Photo by Connor Franta. Jacket: Louis Vuitton. Pant: Louis Vuitton. Shoes: Louis Vuitton. Ring: Cartier.

But fans won’t have to wait too long to see Buchanan in action again. He’s starring opposite Tik-Toker-turned-actor Addison Rae in the new Netflix teen rom-com He’s All That, a gender-swapped reboot of the iconic 1999 flick She’s All That – now updated to reflect the social media dynamics and antics of our time, with a popular influencer (Rae) taking on a bet to turn the school’s biggest loser (Buchanan) into a prom king.

A big fan of romantic comedies himself, including 10 Things I Hate About You and, of course, She’s All That, Buchanan says that just getting to audition for the role of the grungy antisocial-turned-handsome Cameron was already exhilarating. “That’s my guilty pleasure, so I know just about anything and everything,” he concedes with a chuckle.

Cameron is the latest to join Buchanan’s growing list of bitter, brooding characters with a slightly troubled past – giving the actor the opportunity of digging deeper under their layers to truly understand their motivations and translate that to the audience.

“Both [Robby and Cameron] have a lot of heart in them, and I feel like people can somewhat in one way or another connect to them,” he says. “That's what I really like about both.”

Photo by Connor Franta. Jacket: Louis Vuitton. Pant: Louis Vuitton. Shoes: Louis Vuitton. Ring: Cartier.

In real life though, Buchanan is the complete opposite. “I'm kind of a happy-go-lucky person,” he laughs. “I usually have a lot of energy and I'm actually extremely silly, from what people have told me.”

That childlike eagerness to try a variety of activities is still awake inside the actor, who’s nearly as passionate about lifelong hobbies like fixing cars and motorcycles and playing the guitar as he is about acting. He also recently picked up on photography for He’s All That but, unlike Cameron, who only listens to “weird, old stuff no one else listens to,” Buchanan’s playlist is just as eclectic as him, with artists going from Måneskin to Frank Ocean, Anderson .Paak, and Dua Lipa.

Buchanan is also currently directing another part of all that energy towards no less than four other behind-the-camera projects he’s been working on, including movies and a TV show he’s writing with one of his best friends. Three of those projects involve negotiations for movie rights, book rights, and even life rights for a personality that has passed away.

“I just think that there's a lot of good stories out there that just need to be told,” he says. “If I can create something that even reaches someone in a small, small town and opens their eyes a little bit and gets them to explore and have conversations that might be outside of their comfort zone -- that's all I can ask for.”

Credits: Groomer: Sonia Lee • Look 1 (Red Jacket) - Full look: Saint Laurent. Necklace: Cartier. Bracelet: Cartier. • Look 2 (Blue jacket) - Jacket: Louis Vuitton. Pant: Louis Vuitton. Shoes: Louis Vuitton. Ring: Cartier.

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