Cobra Kai revisited Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso 35 years after his victory at the All Valley Karate Tournament. His student didn’t win this time, but season two promises to see Daniel reopen Miyagi-Do Karate in Mr. Miyagi’s honor, including training his daughter Samantha.

Cobra Kai became YouTube Premium’s biggest hit and they ordered the second season within a week, after 20 million views. Now the anticipation for season two is even higher than it was for the return of the beloved franchise. Daniel is going to have to face John Kreese (Martin Kove) again, and even relive some forgotten moments from The Karate Kid Part III.

Macchio spoke with /Film by phone out of New York before the premiere of Cobra Kai’s second season. He’d just gotten back from a warm welcome at SXSW and gave us more insights into what challenges still face the original Karate Kid. Season two of Cobra Kai premieres at on April 24 on YouTube Premium.

We spoke before season one and we were all excited to see Cobra Kai. When it premiered and became such a hit, how did that change things?

Listen, it didn’t change I think what our initial instincts were and the direction we’ve always wanted to go as far as moving forward. What it did, it certainly gave you the confidence that all the tonal stuff that was always in question – is it going to be funny, is it going to be dramatic, is it going to be action scenes, is it a drama, is it a comedy, is it going to be cheesy – we checked all the boxes and you’ve got to credit Jon, Josh and Hayden who are the brain trust of the vision for this show. It was a big validation to what their vision was. Moving forward, it’s always tougher now. I think some of the low expectations going into season one worked for us. So now we have high expectations that changes the game a bit, because the first season delivered so well. But we just continued to try to tell the truth of this story and trusting our three creators that they had the oversight when to pepper that nostalgia, when to go a little bit darker, when to amp up the action, when to call back to the original. They’re working all those instruments and hopefully we continue to make great music. That’s the goal.

You talk about those tonal questions. Did you get to reveal gradually in the first season that Cobra Kai is just as dramatic as the Karate Kid movies were?

Yeah, I think it’s interesting. You can look at the Karate Kid film and you made that movie now as a two hour movie, audience are different, the movies of that time were different. Audiences are different just because everyone has ADD and is reaching for the remote every two seconds, so you have to keep them engaged. Where things got to breathe a little bit more back 30 years ago. I think part of what works in doing this as a series, or what I call a five hour movie cut up into 10 half hour parts each season, it allows the characters to breathe. It allows the gray areas of the personalities to come through and the complexities to get deeper and I think in essence, the stories become more compelling as opposed to just driving towards the big climax two hours later.

Facing Johnny again as an adult is one thing. When Kreese comes back, does he bring a little more PTSD for Daniel?

Yes, certainly. They’ve had little interaction and it’s been 30-something years and to LaRusso, he’s everything that’s wrong with one, a person, and two, martial arts and bullying and everything else. You go down the list. John Kreese was the Darth Vader of the Karate Kid film. How he treated his master and mentor, Mr. Miyagi, with such great disrespect, there’s little room for sympathy from LaRusso’s side. In essence, that’s how he feels about Johnny Lawrence because he got his ass kicked more than a handful of times back in the day. The guy from his perspective has that sort of rough around the edges strike first, strike hard, show no mercy and finish him. That makes no sense to all the teachings and theories that Daniel has gained over the years, but it’s not so easy to teach that. It’s not so easy to teach the Miyagi-Do side of it, as season two shows you. Just because you have knowledge of a subject doesn’t necessarily mean you will have that soulful, magical kind of Mr. Miyagi teaching skills. LaRusso skins his knees trying to figure it out.

How much pride does Daniel feel as a father seeing Samantha train?

I think that was a void when Miyagi passed away I believe and Samantha would train with Daniel for a little bit but then as she became a young teenager, a preteen, it became less interesting and then we see that in season one where martial arts has been out of his life for years. So for him getting to try to show people a better way and not allow the contamination of Cobra Kai to take over the San Fernando Valley, he wants to spread the positive teachings and legacy of Mr. Miyagi. To have Samantha come back and discover interest and rekindle her interest and love for that is a great prideful moment and important part of the journey of the season to connect. Any time you can do something with your kid who is 16, 17, 18 years old, you’re doing pretty well because usually they want to distance themselves as much as possible. I was always close with my daughter through those years so I enjoyed those parallels. My daughter’s older than Samantha on the show is but I enjoyed those parallels and I enjoyed playing those scenes that feel very real because I’ve experienced them in life, not necessarily in martial arts but just in having that close relationship.

Offering free Karate class creates distractions with his business and his wife. Do you think over the years Daniel ever considered Karate as a business?

That’s a good question. I would say no. My instinct would be doing the teachings and philosophy of Miyagi, I think to make a business out of it. When he met Amanda, and there’s more with Daniel and Amanda in season two and understanding their couplehood, which I think is nice and adds some layers to that relationship. And also it adds higher stakes to Daniel when he’s neglecting it. I think whether it was through her affiliation in the auto [business], whether she worked in an auto dealership or they met in something and how the genesis of that happened, but it’s part of what they created together. I think martial arts was always the Eastern philosophy and the teachings of life lessons and finding balance in all aspects of your life that he gained through MIyagi. It was less about how can I make money with this, because certainly Miyagi never did. But times have changed and things are different and I enjoy the fact that he gives Karate lessons for free because the truth is he doesn’t need it to pay the bills. On the other hand, once he finds out that Kreese is back with Johnny Lawrence, even though he doesn’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, to him this is a way to say, “Okay, I don’t have the cool, sexy, smash your fist through a brick kind of martial arts, but you come over here, it’s not going to cost you anything because it’s more about the philosophy, the lessons, the teachings and not monetary gain.” That just adds to the humor and that rivalry in the show.

It’s pretty next level when Daniel realizes that the better philosophy is not to defeat the enemy but to teach them to do better. Is that harder in practice?

It certainly is. I do enjoy him coming up with all of these ideas on why it’s going to work now and then it not working, and then having to find it himself. It is, in essence, as you know in episode five, when the bad gets worse and they vandalize and destruct and disrespect where then you see some of the allegiance leave Cobra Kai and go to what would be finding a better way in some of the young students. Now you’re building the West Side Story or the Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and the Montagues in the young cast, which becomes the Karate soap opera that we are.

You get to have the heroic Mr. Miyagi moment on the beach fighting the bullies. How did it feel to step into that?

Everything hurts a lot more and requires a lot more stretching. It’s injury prevention at this age, but it felt good. I did all that fight myself. Billy [Zabka] as well, it’s nice to have these action scenes and we have the greatest stunt coordinators as you know. Episode 10 is just spectacular what they were able to do on, let me tell you, not a big budget. All these kids put in a ton of work but it was nice to have that scene. I said, “Do you have to put me on a beach? It’s hard to jump on sand.” But I was able to get a couple of kicks up there. From what I understand the fans really enjoyed seeing that moment because it is sort of a mirrored moment.

To when Miyagi stops the bullies in the skeleton costumes.

I think it was the essence of that and it was an homage and mirror to that. It did not try to top it. That scene was such a big reveal because you were revealing Mr. Miyagi has these skills. This was more about seeing that martial arts is back in LaRusso’s life and he can deliver. He saves the kid from harm.

I like when he tells the story of Karate Kid III when he got tempted by Cobra Kai. Did that retroactively give the third movie, which is the least talked about, more value in the overall story?

That’s a great question. A lot of people are commenting on that scene in episode six. Jon, Josh and Hayden are big lovers of all three movies. The third movie, I always felt never delivered for many, many reasons and I don’t talk about it that much. It’s funny because LaRusso has the line where his daughter says, “How come you’ve never mentioned this to me” and I say, “It’s not something I’m proud of, Sam.” That’s one of their favorite lines because it’s like Ralph saying it’s not something I’m proud of. It really served the story. It’s interesting when I read that, I said to myself, “Wait, I wasn’t in Cobra Kai.” The last time I saw that movie was probably 1989. I was watching it with my wife and when I say, “I was Cobra Kai too.” She turned to me and said, “No, you weren’t.” I said, “Wait for the scene. Yes, I was.” We all forget but the true Karate Kid fans know every frame of that stuff and it’s going to teach some people things they didn’t know who never saw that film and it also propels the current Cobra Kai story and actually adds weight and depth to it because now he has something to teach because he’s experienced it. Who knew that the third movie would help this 30 years later. All those characters and all those story points are canon for the future and that’s why we believe we have several seasons we can go with the show and beyond that, especially if other characters continue to build and become popular. You can do spinoffs. We’re hoping for the long haul here.

Do you think season three is a sure thing because YouTube sounds very confident about Cobra Kai?

It has not been officially ordered but there is more than just dialogue. You never know until you get that e-mail but I’m confident. You cannot leave this show ending that way.

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