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If you binge watched all of Cobra Kai in the first day, you’ve surely got questions about that final reveal. So creators Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald agreed to talk spoilers as long as this interview ran after the premiere. If you haven’t made it through all 10 episodes yet that’s okay. Savor it, and we’ll save the spoiler talk for the end of this interview.

There’s plenty to talk about up front, just with the idea of revisiting The Karate Kid in this format. The YouTube Red original series picks up in present day with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) down on his luck, living in the shadow of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). When Johnny reopens Cobra Kai to start training a new generation of students, it reopens old wounds with Daniel, too.

The creators all have credentials when it comes to revisiting popular franchises and genres. Hurwitz and Schlossberg wrote and directed American Reunion. Heald wrote Hot Tub Time Machine, which time travels back to 1986 and features Zabka in a role. The trio spoke with /Film at length, so strap in for a deeb dive into the Karate Kid franchise then and now.

Was the biggest hurdle how to handle the fact that you wouldn’t have Mr. Miyagi anymore?

Hurwitz: When we started planning the show, we obviously knew that we weren’t going to have Mr. Miyagi. But it was crucial to us that the spirit of Mr. Miyagi lived on on our show. Daniel LaRusso was trained by Miyagi for many movies. In our minds, they had a relationship for much longer than that and one that has helped inform Daniel’s life throughout, so part of the fun of making the show was keeping that Miyagi spirit alive.

Schlossberg: One of the reasons why not having Pat Morita didn’t prevent us from doing the show is that we knew that this was a show where Johnny Lawrence was sort of our protagonist as we entered into the story. It was sort of a different perspective. We try to just take the loss of Miyagi and turn that into something that an audience can resonate. As you get older, you lose that father figure or father or your mentor. Then it puts pressure on you to become that person to somebody else. We just used that to our advantage storywise.

Heald: One of the benefits of having many movies with Daniel and Miyagi in scenes together to pull from is that we are able to keep characters alive in spirit on our show. Whether it’s using archival footage or anything like that that can give you a sense of people being there, even though they could not be.

Is the end of this inevitably going to have to be Johnny re-learning that Cobra Kai’s mentality of getting revenge on your enemy doesn’t work?

Heald: It’s an interesting arc for Johnny Lawrence because he needs to grow as any character does over the course of the season of television, but he has to grow within reason and boundaries. It’s always been one step forward, two steps back or two steps forward, one step back. We’re not trying to show that everything changes in the course of one season for Johnny, but it’s a little bit of a reboot of his perspective, his outlook and his expectations.

Hurwitz: Cobra Kai has helped Johnny Lawrence with his highest highs as well as his lowest lows. So he has a love-hate relationship with karate, with Cobra Kai, with his teachings. What we get to see with him on the show and other characters on the show is taking the good, taking the bad and trying to figure out what the right path it.

Heald: I will say at the top of our season, Johnny has a very particular, very distinct point of view about Cobra Kai karate and how it’s different than the one man, than Kreese. Cobra Kai is separable from Kreese. Cobra Kai in and of itself can be good karate. His journey over the season occasionally challenges that.

Is it sort of a myth of the movies that a bully will just go away when you defeat them? Most bullies don’t accept defeat.

Hurwitz: One of the things we like exploring on the show is there’s a reason why a bully is a bully oftentimes. We took one of the most iconic bullies of all time and did a deep dive with him. So you get to learn why he was the bully that we met and we see what happens to that bully. All of us when we were younger experienced bullying in one form or another and then as you get older, you start to realize that the people who were bullying us may have had their own problems and everyone has a bully in their own lives. I think that a bully may always have the bully within him, but as you get older you can hopefully progress in life in one way or another.

Does Will Smith get an Executive Producer credit because he produced the remake with Jaden?

Schlossberg: Yeah, you know, when we were trying to get the rights, when we first decided we wanted to pursue it, we called our agents to find out who owned the rights. It was Jerry Weintraub’s estate along with Will Smith’s company Overbrook because they acquired a portion of the rights when they made the reboot. We needed them in order to do this and we pitched it to them not knowing whether they would be into going back to the original characters and original version of Karate Kid. The executives over there loved the idea, they loved our take. Beyond just allowing us to do it, they were very involved, were on set and very helpful.

Has there been an actual sports debate about the illegal crane kick?

Heald: We address the idea of the illegal kick in our first episode, but we also take steps to point out that it’s a matter of perspective. The illegal kick may be an illegal kick or may not be an illegal kick depending on who you are. The rules were a little bit vague.

Schlossberg: I just think it wasn’t completely thoroughly explained in the movies. How I interpret the rules is that kicks to the face are allowed. Punches to the face are not allowed. So that’s why Daniel won. If it was illegal, they wouldn’t have given them the trophy.

Heald: We do acknowledge that some characters view the kick as illegal and other characters view it as perfectly legal. We leave the 1984 rules a little bit vague.

Do you imagine that Daniel met Julie Pierce at Mr. Miyagi’s funeral, and have you reached out to two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank?

Hurwitz: I love this question first and foremost. In our minds, those two characters do know each other. They were both very important to Mr. Miyagi. We have not yet reached out to Hilary Swank but we do think about her as somebody who is part of the Karate Kid canon and who could exist in the world of Cobra Kai.

Heald: We treat the first four Karate Kids as canon to this universe. They all have Miyagi in them as a throughline.

Is there a scene from Next Karate Kid or Karate Kid III, the least talked about sequels, that you love and might mention on Cobra Kai?

Schlossberg: For hardcore Karate Kid fans who’ve seen all the movies, characters like Terry Silver and Mike Barnes are really popular. We understand why the original movie is always considered the classic and there’s all sorts of criticisms you can have on the later sequels, but we were all just watching HBO at the time and loved these characters.  It’s not like oh my God, this is a show where we really delve into Karate Kid III and Karate Kid IV but there may be an Easter egg or two in the first season if you watch all the episodes.

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