'Cobra Kai' Creators Talk New Characters And What Could Happen In Season 3 [Interview]

When Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald created Cobra Kai, they fulfilled the dream of their own Karate Kid fandom, and all the fans who didn't know how much they needed Johnny and Daniel back in our lives. They also gave YouTube Premium its biggest hit, becoming the centerpiece of the streaming service's original programming. With the return of John Kreese in the season finale, Cobra Kai kept fans waiting desperately for season two.Heald, Schlossberg and Hurwitz have even more in store for Cobra Kai this season. Daniel LaRusso has reopened Miyagi-Do, giving free lessons to student,s including his daughter Samantha and Robbie, the estranged son of Johnny Lawrence. New characters like bad girl Tory and grown-up Stingray have signed up for Cobra Kai.The creators of Cobra Kai spoke with /Film by phone before the premiere of the new season. Cobra Kai season two is streaming now on YouTube Premium. Go watch it, so you can enjoy a second spoiler-filled interview that will run a little bit later.Was the journey of season one to gradually reveal that this show is a drama?Hurwitz: That was part of the fun for us. Obviously our careers before Cobra Kai were all in the Hard R rated comedy feature space. So when we were taking on the property Karate Kid, we would say in every meeting that yes, we're comedy writers but we're fans of The Karate Kid even more so. And that our goal is to honor the legacy of this franchise and continue the world into present day. There would be some tonal changes because it's moving into TV. It's a little bit different 35 years later and we're coming in through the Cobra Kai angle but The Karate Kid was a drama and had comedic moments in it, but it was a drama, an inspirational underdog story. We didn't want to lose the spirit of that. We didn't want to lose the feel of that but when we were first pitching the show, we said, "Should we bring this through the comedy department or should be bring this through the drama department?" We knew that there would be comedic elements to it but at its core, we were going to be telling a dramatic story that hopefully viewers are going to be emotionally connected with, and as emotionally connected with as they are any drama on television.When Daniel refers to the events of The Karate Kid Part III, was that an opportunity to give one of the more maligned sequels more value?Schlossberg: You know, it's funny. We were very young when the original Karate Kid came out so when Karate Kid III came out, we were still kids at the time. And we loved anything that had Mr. Miyagi in it, so we watched Karate Kid III a bunch of times. We weren't discriminating film critics at the time. We just liked seeing the continued story. Now that we're taking over this world, we had a decision that we had to make early on as far as what is canon. We just liked the idea that yeah, this is a continuation of all of those movies. Part of the fun is taking some of these story beats or characters from the sequels and trying to find a way to give them value and relevance to a good story today in 2019. Anything that has a reference to Karate Kid III is going to be something that we like. It just has to make sense with what's going on with the characters. It made sense in that moment this year.Heald: Love it or hate it or anything between, Karate Kid III is part of Daniel LaRusso's history. I think we all have parts of our past that we're not proud of. There are elements of Daniel's story and behavior in that movie that Daniel LaRusso isn't proud of, but he grew from it. We all grew from viewing Karate Kid III, seeing it, hearing more about the history of Cobra Kai. There's a lot of camp in that movie but there's also a lot of really powerful story fodder in terms of our universe, in terms of leaning into that as canon.That's why I love franchises. Even the ones that didn't do as well or the creators weren't happy with still happened.Schlossberg: Here's what I'll say. John Avildsen cared about the continuations of the storylines. There are certain things back then, like how they dealt with Ali in between one and two that maybe weren't as thought out as we would like, but we loved how each movie continued from the last. So it felt like they were all this one giant story and this expansive universe, the way that Avildsen made movies.Was using Cruel Summer again a proud moment for you guys?Heald: Yeah, any time we're using songs from the original movies, it's a big deal to us. Cruel Summer is one of our favorites. From even before we pitched the show, when we were initially talking about the show, we love the idea of using the classic Cruel Summer, but we always liked the idea of this slowed down, more dramatic version of Cruel Summer. The lyrics lend themselves to it. Once we got to season two and we realized hey, we're going to do a season that takes place over the course of the summer, it felt like a really great song to weave in there in multiple different ways and we even arranged for Kari Kimmell, who's song Black was in the first season, we arranged for her to record this new version of Cruel Summer that we now have in all the marketing. We pitched to the marketing department that it would be great for the trailers and here we are. We think it's really impactful in both uses that we have in episodes we've done.We talk about all the callbacks and returning characters from Karate Kid, but how has it felt to create new characters like Tory and Stingray to join your cast of kids who the fans have fallen in love with as much as the original movie characters?Hurwitz: We love it. It's so much fun creating characters that audience can fall in love with in the same way that we fell in love with Johnny and Daniel and Kreese and Miyagi and Ali back in the day. We're blessed to have legacy characters that have a rich history, but as writers it's equally fun to be able to come up with completely fresh characters that are modern, that have backstories that no one is aware of and that you're able to take in any direction that has no limitation and an audience gets to react to completely fresh. When it comes to Tory and Stingray, those are two of our favorites that we've added to the universe this season. For Stingray, Paul Walter Hauser is an actor that the moment we all saw him in I, Tonya, we were like that guy must be on Cobra Kai. We'd been talking for a while about the idea of there being the first adult student in Cobra Kai and him in a class with children. The moment we saw I, Tonya, we knew that Paul Walter Hauser had to be that guy. He delivered on every level for us. Dramatically, he's a very gifted actor and comedically, he's as good as anybody when it comes to improv or just knowing exactly how to carry himself in space and get a great audience reaction. Tory was really fun for us because we love the idea of amping up things for Mary Mouser's character, Samantha, this season. Mary is such a fine actress and so much fun to work with. We love the idea of exploring Daniel LaRusso's daughter and her potential conflicts more and bringing in this rival for her and then finding somebody like Peyton List who is well known as one particular thing from her Disney days and then being able to reinvent her. People who are fans of her on Bunk'd and Jessie, when they see her kicking ass the way that she's doing is going to blow people's minds.Schlossberg: We really liked the idea of there being the mean girl who knows Karate. It takes everything we see in these high school stories and takes it to an action spectacle level. That was fun for us.Heald: There are elements of the show that we've changed from one season to another and that's why we never give a definitive answer to how many seasons are you planning. Paul Walter Hauser, the beginning of that story arc was something we actually had on the wall and in outline for season one. We just couldn't put it in in such a way that it wouldn't have taken away from other storylines. So we were glad that at the beginning of season two, the priority for us was to start weaving in that character. Like Jon said, Paul is just comedy gold.Hurwitz: Obviously season one there's Demetri, there's Hawk, there's Aisha. We love all those characters and the way that they can interact with these two dojos in a way that's distinct from Johnny or Daniel and that they each have their own very unique perspective and lends itself to different kinds of scenes. It's not just the students. We love characters like Lynn, the homeless woman, and Nestor, the minimart guy, and Lyle who owns the pawn shop. This world building is something that we really enjoy. Once you create characters, it's really fun to mix it up and put these different characters in different scenes because it leads to fun results.Has the Samantha, Robbie and Miguel love triangle been new territory for you to explore?Schlossberg: I think the idea of a high school teen romance isn't something that we've done in our past movies but we've been huge fans of shows like, Degrassi High. So we wrote that kind of classic high school teen romance storyline and thought okay, how can we tell those types of stories but with our dojo vs. dojo rivalry creating dramatic conflict?Heald: I'll just say, we all made movies that don't feature a bunch of teenagers in high school at all times but we remember what it's like to be a teenager. Those emotions at that age, everything's life or death. When you add that to the heightened reality of our world where there's also this Karate rivalry that threatens the soul of the San Fernando Valley, it was very handy to naturally lean into a love triangle giving us a lot of dramatic weight and power to the drive, the relationship and the fighting and the feelings forward in such a way that when there are punches being thrown, it's not just physical. There are broken hearts involved.I love that Over the Top was an important movie for Johnny. Was that a fun meta way to establish that other '80s sports movies exist in the world of Cobra Kai?Schlossberg: Yeah, Johnny likes Iron Eagle and Over the Top. And movie in the '80s that had an action sequence or a Survivor song that isn't The Karate Kid.Heald: Johnny likes the movies that were kind of the underdog sports movies that were clearly on the fringe. The fact that Johnny likes Over the Top and we were able to just weave that in there tells us another layer of Johnny.Schlossberg: He just loves that type of teacher.Heald: He's going to love Stallone for even the smallest stakes Stallone movie of all time.Hurwitz: Those are high stakes. His child's on the line.Martin Kove keeps telling us you're going to go into Kreese's Vietnam backstory in season three. Has that changed any of your plans for next season?Hurwitz: Marty has been thinking about Cobra Kai for many, many years as a character, Sensei Kreese for many years. He has lots of ideas. We have lots of ideas. In terms of what's going on with Sensei Kreese in season three or beyond, it's all stuff that's very up in the air. Whatever Marty's saying is not necessarily accurate.Heald: I'll just say we have not discussed any of our season three plans with Marty. When we met Marty, he had a lot to say about his character. He'd been living with the weight of this character for 35 years. A lot of what he said, some of that stuff was on our minds in terms of the backstory of his character but in terms of the storyline going forward, that's something that only the guys and I know at this point.He's very persuasive though, and it can still be his backstory whether you say it explicitly or not.Schlossberg: We definitely think about the backstory of all of our characters, especially him and we'll see how and if we utilize it. There's definitely a lot more to Kreese than what we just show in season two.Given how highly Susanne Daniels (YouTube Global Head of Original Content) speaks about your show, is season three a sure thing?Hurwitz: We don't have anything official to announce at this point when it comes to a season three because we don't know entirely. What we can say is whenever we have conversations with YouTube they talk about Cobra Kai as a longterm part of their platform. I know there's various changes have gone on over the course of Cobra Kai being on the platform. There may be more changes to come but the hope and expectation is that Cobra Kai is around for many seasons to come.If there is a season three, can it come sooner than a year from now?Schlossberg: It actually is possible. We're trying to get our ducks in a row so that we can start shooting a season three earlier. So it's possible. We'll have to see how things all fall.Hurwitz: The reality is this show takes some time to write and to produce and put together. The guys and I spend a lot of time and effort making sure that we don't rush, but we're also very mindful that there's an appetite to have more as soon as possible. This season is coming out in under a year from the prior season. The hope would be that everything can come together, that we can have a season three come out even sooner this year.Have you ever thought about what if Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai merged and all the conflicts that could create between Johnny and Daniel?Heald: We've thought of every permutation and combination in terms of just a mental exercise for this show in terms of where it's going. The guys and I have a pretty longterm plan for the ups and downs of how these relationships intersect and have conflict and yes, moments where characters are seeing eye to eye in an unexpected way. So that is something we've certainly talked about what that would look like.Schlossberg: There's something inherently difficult about two opposing ideologies and schools coming together. You have this push/pull of seeing how these two guys could potentially be friends and how things could work out so well if they just combined forces, yet one school is all about offense. One school is all about defense. How do you merge those two things? Those are things that are fun for fans to think about and obviously we're fans. We're thinking about it. We have a game plan. Maybe it'll happen the way people think or it won't. I just know with us, we're always thinking about the characters and where we want them to end up. Along the way, the Karate is kind of the magic that's happening in the world to help get these characters along on their journey. It's going to be fun for us, we have a game plan but every now and then things change as you start to develop the episodes. Who knows? Maybe certain things change that's in our minds but right now we're definitely creating this world of two rival ideologies, but then there's the human beings behind that.Hurwitz: We love giving the fans what they want with this show because we are fans of Karate Kid, but we also love trying to do that in such a way that they don't see things coming or they get what they want to and they expect there are surprises lying ahead, or there's moments of taking your medicine and not getting what you want because it's in service of getting something even better. So we try to be very mindful of using the power of the Johnny/Daniel conflict to the benefit of the longterm story.