We chatted with Craig Borduin about his career in acting and stand-in work on the Netflix series Cobra Kai. Craig goes in depth about stand-in work and his experiences on the set of Cobra Kai. Check out our conversation below!
When did you decide that storytelling was something you wanted to do?
Craig Borduin (CB): I can’t really pinpoint an exact moment. And I’m still not sure it’s something I want to continue with; Imposter Syndrome, we all get it. But as a kid, I loved fantasy/adventure books. Tolkien. Rowling. Sanderson. I’d sneak in a few pages at dinner, on the bus to school, in between the pages of my Bible at church, under the covers with a flashlight, etc. So I’ve always had a love for stories. After college, I dabbled with creative modeling, which any string of photos can arguably be considered a story, and as a model you’re helping someone’s vision come to life.
More recently, I studied the Miesner technique. Covid-19 forced our class online about halfway through, and instead of playing our improv assignments each week live in person, we had to film them at home and send them in to our teacher. So we had to Jason Bateman it: direct, write, act, produce, film. My cellphone camera lens was cracked, so I made due with my MacBook Air webcam and an upside down laundry basket, and ended up getting creative with a lot of the filming process. Taking Meisner was for sure a step forward in deciding that storytelling may be the path for me.
How did you get involved with Cobra Kai?
CB: My first run-in with Cobra Kai was actually on the set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid when I stood in for the infamous #NotMyRodrick and the acting coach for the current Greg Heffley was Tony O’Dell (Jimmy). My friend Matt was casting background for a karate dojo scene (s1e6) and wasn’t sure he’d hit his numbers. I needed the work. So when he reached out, I agreed to show up. We were at their soundstages; it was a time before they needed a guard at the gate. That day I saw a lot of new faces, and a few familiar ones.
Now, as background, your first instincts when being placed in a scene are to make sure you end up somewhere comfortable because chances are you’re going to be there for awhile. We filmed 2 days of the Johnny, Miguel, Eli, Demetri scenes with the mat kids. Later, the background were gathered outside the dojo in the “parking lot” still on stages. I was selected to stay 3rd out of 15. Each karate class we were brought back for, there was always one too many kids and our numbers were cut one by two by one by one until you see the season 1 squad at the All Valley: Billy, Jacob, Nichole, Xolo, Owen, Gabe, Denzel, Henry, Jayden, Daniel, Connor, AJ, and myself. Only then can I say that I really joined Cobra Kai because there was just that air of uncertainty of whether or not you would be there for the next filming day.
What is one of the best things about working on Cobra Kai?
CB: As with most productions… food. I love the crew, the cast, the community we’ve created, but nothing beats catering and craft services. Setting up a shot takes anywhere from 10-40 minutes. It depends on if it’s the master shot for the whole scene, or just a pickup of a specific line. Credit is due to my other stand-ins (Kayla, Ricci, Nick, Riley, Kaitlyn) who grab snacks for me when Marty/Billy/Thomas are in scene after scene. Shout out to Dupre’s Catering. There’s nothing more appealing to the prospect of a 60+ hour workweek, than the thought of not having to cook your own meals. Johnny Stockard and Tony Rossi have hooked me up over the years.
What do you like the most about storytelling?
CB: There’s no one right way to tell a story. Nothing is correct. Because its how the audience perceives the story. (And that’s the beauty and life of Cobra Kai). You can be as creative as you want and you’ll never be wrong. People might not like your portrayal of the story (Avatar: The Last Airbender), but it doesn’t mean it was done incorrectly. You can add accents. Period piece wardrobe. You can shoot it all in (what looks like) one take: 1917. There could be fighting. Special effect explosions. CGI’d clones (Will Smith). There are 100s of takes on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Stop motion work is honestly my favorite. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance was a phenomenal adaptation.
What is something you can tell us about stand-in work that we might not know about?
CB: A typical set up of a scene starts out like this: The talent are called onto set. They read through the scene in a private rehearsal with the director. Jon, Josh, Hayden, Michael, Joe, or Luan are usually there. Our Director of Photography Paul watches the positioning of actors in the scene when they are placed where the director had storyboard envisioned them being. Paul sets up the positioning of the cameras later on. They might read a few more times through if stunts are involved, just to get a feel for the scene. Then comes the last read through: the marking rehearsal. Stand -ins come in to watch this rehearsal as our assigned character’s position is our responsibility. You have to watch when and where your actor moves, watch what they’re doing, who they’re facing… because when 1st team (the talent) is dismissed to go back to their trailer, change wardrobe, go to makeup/hair, go to craft services, go to lunch early, etc., you’re expected to mimic and fill in for them.
What are some of your hobbies outside of the entertainment world?
CB: I boulder. Mostly indoors. Bouldering combines problem solving with a workout, so you get both a physical and mental challenge with each ascent. And when you reach the top, that feeling of “I did it!” is unbeatable. My favorite part is jumping off the wall at the end because one video-in-reverse later, it looks like you’re a superhero blasting off in flight to save the day! I also keep up with reading the webcomic Tower of God. And very recently I rediscovered Skyrim, but on the Nintendo Switch.
What is the ideal project you want to work on in the future?
CB: I think it would be rad to be a part of a project with dystopian or utopian themes that you and I would find weird, but the characters of that world find completely normal. Something along the lines of In Time, where people stop aging at 25 and time exists as the currency for the world economy. Or The Lobster, in which single folks have to find their romantic other in 45 days. If they fail in their attempt, they will turn into an animal. Both are concepts that we as the audience have a hard time wrapping our heads around, but as an actor I think it would be exquisite to live in that mindset where: “Oh yeah, this is completely normal and happens on a daily basis.”
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