Cobra Kai early buzz

I imagine the success of TV reboots helped get Cobra Kai made, but shows like Roseanne and Will & Grace are coming back as the same show. Is it different to change the format from movies to a TV show?

Hurwitz: The three of us have been friends for over 20 years and we’ve all been huge fans of Karate Kid for over 20 years. For all this time, we’ve talked about how much fun it would be to revisit the Karate Kid universe, but our angle in has always been Cobra Kai. We never thought it would be interesting to do, “Hey, it’s The Karate Man now. Daniel and his son, it’s the exact same story.” We always thought there was something interesting about the perspective of the bully. You even see in that very first movie, the vulnerability in Johnny’s eyes as his sensei tells him to sweep the leg. He hands Daniel the trophy at the end of the movie. To us,there’s always been more to that story and that felt like a fresh way in. When shows like Fuller House started coming out and you start to see shows that were popular when we were young are returning, and you’re able to have Kimmy Gibbler on a billboard, we started to think hey, maybe that Cobra Kai idea that we’ve had all these years, maybe that would make for a great streaming show so we could tell a bigger story and expand upon it. We view Cobra Kai as Karate Kid 2018. It has a certain edge to it that you find in present day. We’re flipping the script in a sense. We thought it’s just a much more entertaining and interesting experience for the audience.

Schlossberg: It provides all the fun nostalgia that you would get from watching a Roseanne or a Will & Grace. We’re seeing the same characters today and there’s a lot of the same themes, martial arts and all that stuff to bring you back to that enjoyment that a lot of people had when they saw the original Karate Kid. But what we love about this is it’s totally different. It’s not just a retread. Not only seeing it from the Cobra Kai side but also the fact that it’s a TV series, so we’re changing the format, we’re changing the protagonist. It’s very original while keeping a lot of the classic themes it started with.

Hurwitz: A big thing for us is it allows us to see a different version of Daniel LaRusso as well. In our minds, both Daniel and Johnny are protagonists and they’re both antagonists in our minds. All the characters on the show, we like to see both sides of it. Having the ability to do a streaming show which has five hours of material instead of a movie, you get to do a deeper dive in all those characters.

Heald: This isn’t a TV show that’s been off the air for 10 or 20 years. This was a movie that was 34 years ago. Even if we did just lean directly into the exact themes and storylines of the movie, it was bound to be dramatically different anyway because we’re taking characters who were teenagers coming of age and now they’re grown up. There’s families and there’s businesses and there’s worlds and extended families. That in and of itself gives the show a different DNA. That and the shifting POV tells a completely different story.

You mentioned Johnny handing Daniel the trophy. What’s your take on what happens after he says, “You’re all right, LaRusso?” When does that start to change back in his mind?

Heald: Johnny Lawrence is a very complex character that is intentionally underserved by the movie because it’s not Johnny’s movie. It’s Daniel’s movie but the movie does do a pretty good job of showing you that it’s John Kreese who’s really the big bad. Johnny Lawrence is the student who’s been a little misled in the ways of what’s proper karate and proper conduct. We don’t view it as everything changed in that instant for good and forever, but that kick, that loss was a catalyst. We obviously know what happened directly after he handed Daniel that trophy. He went to the parking lot and John Kreese tried to choke him to death. So in that one moment, Johnny lost the championship. He already lost a girlfriend. He lost his father figure. He lost a sport he loved that kind of defined him and he’s got six months left of high school? It’s just not a good moment and it’s kind of the beginning of the downward spiral.

Hurwitz: We see in that moment, Johnny and Daniel are good but you see that Daniel has always been a bit of a cocky kid and not somebody who’s shy about his victories. It’s possible that in the rest of high school, Daniel may have walked through the hallways a little bit more confident. Maybe there were some taunts from other students in the school making fun of Johnny for that kick to the face. That’s probably the instant reaction the rest of the school year. What’s happened since then is Daniel’s become a successful owner of a string of car dealerships and uses karate in his commercials. He talks about kicking the competition and he has billboards all over the valley and commercials on the radio. So Johnny who had this really traumatizing experience at this karate tournament has had to have it rubbed in his face for the last 30 years. That can grate at you.

Jon and Hayden, you did American Reunion. Was that a different sort of continuation than doing Cobra Kai all these years later?

Hurwitz: American Reunion we loved making as well. I think the big thing about that movie for us was that was specifically a reunion movie. So the goal on that movie was to almost be a direct sequel to that original American Pie when we saw them in high school as seniors. So that one was leaning heavily on the nostalgia there and the feelings that you’d have at a high school reunion. When approaching Cobra Kai it was sort of a completely different scenario. Yes, we have callbacks to the original movies, and also just the nature that it became a TV show, it was all about keeping the story grounded, keeping it of today. The story that you would see with a couple kids may feel a little bit softer just by the intense bullying. It’s a little bit darker what you might see present day with a man who’s in his 50s and life hasn’t turned out well, whose guiding light has been the Cobra Kai philosophy.

Schlossberg: But it was informative having worked on American Reunion and going into an existing franchise. I think the big takeaway was we were just huge fans of the American Pie movies. When we got on board American Reunion, we had to meet all the actors and gain their trust. I think they saw right away we understood the characters. I think that was similar in this case. When we met Ralph Macchio for the first time and told him all our thoughts, I think he realized okay, these guys really understand The Karate Kid and fans of The Karate Kid are going to enjoy this new show.

Heald: We all have had very interesting and specific R-rated comedy feature careers. That’s not the toolbox that any of us brought to this show. We were first and foremost Karate Kid fans and we wanted to honor that and tell that story in a different way than what you might expect from our collective resumes.

Is it true you guys already wrote an American Pie 5?

Schlossberg: No, sometimes IMDB will list a bunch of things. I think that there was maybe a period of time when that was in discussion but it wasn’t even formerly announced. We haven’t been working on that.

Hurwitz: No, we haven’t written an American Pie 5. We’ve had thoughts on what we would do in an American Pie 5 but it isn’t something we’ve ever put pen to paper on.

Heald: But I have written Back to the Future IV.

You know, at the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future I pitched Bob Gale doing a part IV in the real 2015 and sending a new teenager back to 1985. He said he thought Hot Tub Time Machine already did it. 

Heald: That’s the coolest thing I’ve heard. It’s an honor. It was no accident that Hot Tub went back to the ‘80s. It’s the era in which we’re nostalgic for.

I think Thomas Ian Nicholas thought there was an actual script so he’ll be disappointed.

Hurwitz: We saw that. I think Thomas, in the wake of making American Reunion, there was a lot of talk about making an American Pie 5 and we had some really serious thoughts about it. There was real talk about doing it but it just never ended up coming together.

Schlossberg: It made enough money worldwide to warrant another sequel, but that was the right story and the right timing. Those types of things are always possibilities. Look at Cobra Kai 30 years later. It’s not not happening, but we haven’t written anything.

Do you have any thoughts on another Harold and Kumar?

Hurwitz: Yeah, we think about Harold and Kumar a lot. We’re still really good friends with both John and Kal. Many times a year we talk about doing another Harold and Kumar movie. Even on my walk this morning I was thinking about Harold and Kumar IV. We have nothing definitive on that but it’s something that I know we’d all like to do one. It’s figuring out the right time and place.

Josh, are you working on any other screenplays?

Heald: Yeah, I have a couple of screenplays in development right as we started making Cobra Kai, then Cobra Kai kind of took everything over. One of my projects is embroiled in the Dimension/Weinstein Company situation so I know the producers are very actively trying to get that one out of there. The other one is a Chinese coproduction that I don’t know the current state of.

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