NYCC 2018: Cast and Crew of ‘Cobra Kai’ Keep the Spirit of ‘The Karate Kid’ Alive

Serving as a sequel to the Karate Kid franchise debuting 34 years after the first film, season one of Cobra Kai gave fans the reintroduction of childhood rivals Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio). Larusso is a successful car dealership owner still reaping some of the benefits of his win in 1984, and Johnny has reached rock bottom living off of odd jobs and beer. After a chance encounter with some bullies attacking a young boy named Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) and an unfortunate run-in with Larusso himself, Johnny becomes inspired to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, catapulting a series of events leading to new students coming under Johnny’s wing and a renewed rivalry brewing between him and Larusso. The series concludes with Larusso opening Miyagi-Do Karate in response.

Recently at New York Comic Con 2018, we had the opportunity to speak with Cobra Kai stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, as well as series producers Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald, and Hayden Schlossberg, regarding their approach towards the series itself and what fans can expect from its eventual second season.

When figuring out how to approach the series’ first season, Jon Hurwitz claims they really wanted to “honor the original movie,” but not only tell the story of Larusso and Lawrence and how far they’ve come. They also wanted to “tell a modern story of bullying,” which is something the original Karate Kid addressed in its narrative. In paying tribute to the original films, those who have watched the first season know that some original footage and unused footage from the original films were used in the production of Cobra Kai. According to Josh Heald, much of this footage is “not digitized” and “not always filed correctly,” though Sony has assisted heavily in getting certain clips out of hiding and into the hands of these creators. Heald also implies that more original footage has been restored and will be included in season two.

Hayden Schlossberg recalls working on American Reunion along with Hurwitz, and how that experience working on reuniting the cast of an original film (American Pie in this case) and showing where these characters are so many years later helped in approaching Cobra Kai. Although, unlike working on a film with a two-hour run time, Hurwitz acknowledges that having a series with a five-hour run time spread over ten 30-minute episodes not only allowed them to tackle the story of Larusso and Lawrence, but also bring to light the stories of the teenagers in Cobra Kai. While they don’t give much detail of exactly what to expect in season two regarding these characters, Heald implies new characters will be introduced and friendships will be tested.

Season one ended with a major cliffhanger involving the return of John Kreese, Johnny Lawrence’s Sensei from The Karate Kid, played by returning cast member Martin Kove. When asked about this cliffhanger, Cobra Kai star William Zabka teases the father-son dynamic between Johnny and Kreese, and the dysfunctional relationship that will arise. What has been surprisingly refreshing about the series so far has been the complexity of the characters and their current predicaments. Zabka acknowledges this, reminding us of the estrangement between Johnny and his son Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and how he views Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) as his new son. Unfortunately for Miguel, Johnny’s teachings have driven him to become a bully much like Johnny was back in high school, which turns Cobra Kai’s apparent victory at the 50th Anniversary All Valley Karate Championship into more of a defeat or failure for Johnny.

In the fifth episode of season one, the series pays a loving tribute to Pat Morita and his character Mr. Miyagi. Before signing on to do Cobra Kai, Ralph Macchio recalls advising the creators that “if the legacy of Mr. Miyagi isn’t woven throughout this series then it’s not the right thing for me to do.” With that being said, the second season will continue this trend and the spirit of Mr. Miyagi will live on in Miyagi-Do Karate, which will be a fully restored version of Mr. Miyagi’s home from the original film.

With Miyagi-Do Karate now in operation in the second season, Macchio suggests that Larusso might have bitten off a bit more than he could chew, learning that teaching a class of students isn’t as simple as he initially thought. When asked if any students would make the transfer from Cobra Kai to Miyagi-Do Karate and if any conflicts would arise from that, Macchio didn’t want to give much away, only smiling and stating the audience is “gonna love it” and it will be everything fans are hoping for.

Cobra Kai season two is set to release on YouTube Red in 2019, though an official release date has not been revealed. If you haven’t watched Cobra Kai and you’re a fan of The Karate Kid, definitely check it out. The first two episodes are still available to watch for free without access to a YouTube Red account, although you’ll probably want to sign up for one after you check them out.