Cobra Kai Trailer

The three of you are the first to write Daniel and Johnny since Robert Mark Kamen. Was that some pressure?

Schlossberg: I wouldn’t describe it as pressure as much as an honor and just an enjoyable, fun experience. The three of us have been in the screenwriting game for a long time and I think any screenwriter holds Robert Mark Kamen in high regard. He’s one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood history. Karate Kid is probably, of all his movies, the one that we like the most. I think we always felt the pressure to make this as awesome as it can be, but we knew that because we were fans ourselves, if we’re liking it, probably fans and Robert Mark Kamen would like it too.

Heald: We reached out to Robert and we got his blessing. We’ve had a lot of great discussions with him and we know that he’s excited to see his characters live on. He’s been very intrigued and encouraged by what we’re doing and what we’re telling with these characters and they’re very different characters now. They have the same voice in that it’s very obvious who they were then, but they’re also 34 years on. There’s that newness to them as well.

Hurwitz: One of the greatest experiences that the three of us have had in this industry was right after the official trailer came out for the show, we got a call from Robert. He could not have been more excited. He loved what he saw. Even though he only saw two minutes of material, he was able to extrapolate so many things because he knows these characters inside and out and he knows screenwriting inside and out. When he said to us, “I can tell you guys did this right,” it was the greatest honor for us. We’re looking forward to him seeing the entire show.

If you thought of this 20 years ago, were you waiting to get the clout to do something this big?

Schlossberg: We’ve been talking about it probably early in our screenwriting career, in the early 2000s, around the time the new Karate Kid DVD came out with the special features. I think we’ve always loved Cobra Kai and Johnny Lawrence and Kreese, in addition to obviously Daniel and Miyagi. We loved the idea of taking what happened to Johnny. There may have been 15 years ago, we talked about wouldn’t this be an awesome movie? Yeah, maybe at some point we thought, “Can we do this?” but maybe we didn’t have the clout. Pretty soon the Jaden Smith reboot came out and it just seemed like that’s probably not going to happen. With the evolution of TV series, it opened up the possibility again.

Hurwitz: We were very serious about it as a movie in the early 2000s and then we got to be in the movie business and you realize how hard it is to get a movie made. It’s all about what have you done for me lately, with stars. It didn’t feel clear that Ralph and Billy were going to get the big studio push that we would want for a Karate Kid movie. Then the Jaden Smith movie happened and we felt like it’s gone forever.

Schlossberg: We’d hate the idea of doing the straight to DVD version of a movie. I think what’s cool about this is as a streaming series, it’s just inherently a different format. So it’s not something where it’s like we’re making a movie that’s just much cheaper than the original movies. This is something that is a completely different art form but with the original characters.

Heald: We felt it would’ve been dishonest to say okay, we’ll do it without the rights and it won’t be necessarily Daniel or Johnny. That wasn’t interesting or attractive to us. We hold the movie in such a high regard that the only way to do this right is to have that movie we’re referencing. We knew it was always a risk in terms of we hope we don’t break Karate Kid because we love Karate Kid so much, and we’d never forgive ourselves if we did. But we would also never attempt to do this without putting it on the shoulders of greatness.

When you first started thinking about Cobra Kai, was Pat Morita still alive and did you have a version where he was still in it?

Hurwitz: We did initially start talking about this pre-2005. We didn’t dig super deep back then when we started talking about it where we knew exactly what we would want to do. It was more revolving around what happened to that bully from your high school? So we were thinking first and foremost from the Johnny standpoint and thinking about his life, and conversely that concept that Daniel you would hope has made good while Johnny’s life has gone in the opposite direction. In terms of the specifics of Miyagi, we assumed he would be a part of that world but we didn’t have grand plans for exactly what Miyagi would be doing in that story. Again, it was a movie plan as opposed to a TV plan. So he would’ve had some role in it but it would’ve been a smaller one probably. I think he will actually have a much bigger role in this series, weirdly enough.

Heald: Not having Pat put certain constraints and handcuffs on what we can do with the Miyagi character but it also makes every choice we make for that character more powerful and more meaningful because of the limited amount of footage we have to work with with an actor who has passed. Pat Morita and Mr. Miyagi had a lot of wisdom to impart on Daniel through three movies so we look forward to continuing to use that as much as possible to influence the Daniel side of the story moving forward.

Hurwitz: In our world, Mr. Miyagi lived many years beyond those movies as well. In our world, Mr. Miyagi knew Daniel’s wife. Mr. Miyagi met Daniel’s daughter. So there are things that the audience hasn’t seen that happen in the world of this universe that we can find out in the future in, hopefully, creative ways.

So when he passed in 2005 did that ever seem like an insurmountable hurdle?

Hurwitz: It definitely, when he passed, it was one of the elements that made us feel like well, I guess that’s not going to happen. It was one of the contributing factors of feeling like the movie will never happen.

Do you get to address how karate is now sort of the forgotten martial art, considered old in a world of MMA?

Heald: We get into the idea of other martial arts disciplines on the show in the San Fernando Valley. We also lean on the fact that there was an era that karate in the Valley is like football in Texas. That was kind of the era of Johnny and Daniel, but we do acknowledge that the idea of old school karate is a little bit foreign to these kids who know MMA, jujitsu and things like that.

Schlossberg: I think there’s a conceit on our show that in the Valley, karate is sort of a big deal. It comes with the original movie and the fact that there was this big huge tournament. I’m not sure that’s the case everywhere, but we just kind of accepted that okay, here in the valley, there’s all these different karate organizations and it’s a big deal here. I think we took that as okay, that’s part of this world that we’re creating and that explains why Daniel would use karate in his videos.

Heald: And not in a comical way where everyone walks down the street talking about karate. You have characters who are completely removed from knowing that karate is even a minor deal in the Valley at all. But there definitely is a little bit of a subculture that still celebrates the world of karate.

And now, here is the talk about the spoiler at the end of the season finale of Cobra Kai. Read no further if you have not finished season one of Cobra Kai yet.

So by the very end, a certain someone shows up, someone Karate Kid fans have been expecting to see, at least until Johnny said in episode eight that he was dead. So I got to ask the show runners why they waited until the finale to reveal him, emerging from the shadow with a monologue tease like a Marvel movie Easter egg.

Why did you decide to wait until the last episode to reveal this character and end it on a cliffhanger?

Heald: We’ve said John Kreese’s presence looms large. You see him in flashbacks. You know that he’s a big part of the Cobra Kai universe. So he played a huge role in the series. We loved the idea of after seeing the journey that our characters go through this first season, to throw sensei Kreese into the mix as a curveball for the audience, for the characters themselves, and for the places that we can take the series going forward. He’s a character that we all absolutely loved and fans of The Karate Kid love or love to hate. When doing a show called Cobra Kai, we from the beginning have always wanted him to be a part of this universe. But we felt that the first season would benefit from the story that we tell in the first season. His presence should be greater going forward.

Hurwitz: In order to tell Johnny’s story, and the first episode of the season, Johnny is still dealing with the ghost of Kreese from him losing the tournament and saying “Sweep the leg” and choking Johnny. Kreese is very much on the mind, but it felt like in order to see Johnny start to grow and experience Cobra Kai karate, to have Kreese along for that ride right away felt like we were shortchanging Johnny’s experience. Withholding his arrival back into Johnny’s life until the end of the season felt like the perfect place for him to show up and really throw a curveball at the balance that we’ve established by that point.

Even before seeing the show, my first thought at the idea of a Cobra Kai show was if Johnny’s reopening Cobra Kai, wherever he is, John Kreese would hear about it.

Heald: We’re leaving it intentionally vague for the first season whether or not Johnny is aware that Kreese is still around, alive, in the country. We don’t want to reveal yet where we’re taking that and going with that because during the season, Johnny does say point blank when asked about Kreese, “John Kreese is dead.” Does Johnny believe that? Is Johnny lying? Was Johnny told something or is he just dead to Johnny? Those are all things we look forward to answering when we take the story forward.

So you do have an explanation for season two?

Hurwitz: Yes, in season two you’ll learn far more about the lingering status of that relationship. You’ll know what Johnny knows and what the world knows going forward, but at the end of this season it’s just a surprise that he shows up. It’s just the beginning of the story basically.

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