The road for Cobra Kai star Ralph Macchio was long returning to the signature role he made so famous for over 30 years in The Karate Kid franchise. Prior to his return for the series, which originally premiered on YouTube Red and since found a new home on Netflix, the actor spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how stars from beloved franchises maintained fresh takes on their enduring roles.
"The legacy of Karate Kid has been so embraced, and the character someone that people connected with for so long, it felt like, why tank that legacy?" Macchio said. Cobra Kai found Macchio's Daniel LaRusso reunited with his original 1984 rival from the first film in Johnny Lawrence, played by William Zabka. Both are long removed from their glory days as the prized students of Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai, bearing the torch as sensei to pass on to the next generation on the Netflix series. "It was all about finding the angle — being nostalgic yet relevant," he said.
Cobra Kai offers a layer of depth The Karate Kid films never had before blurring the lines the films often set. "Karate Kid was very black and white in its way, whereas with Cobra Kai, the gray areas are where it really lives," Macchio explained. "That is what's so enriching to me as an actor. To have been the key hero protagonist of that time, and then become a fully-fledged adult character, who's a bit of a rudderless ship, needing to find that balance and recalibrate his life, that was really exciting to me."
It turns out even without Nariyoshi Miyagi's continued guidance to coincide with actor Pat Morita's passing, Macchio's Daniel is still learning on the series applying his lessons to heart and subsequently, his students. "We're always pushing and pulling off what the parameters are to being true to the character," he said. "I take a great deal of pride in being the guy lucky enough to have played that part, so I become very protective of it." As Cobra Kai progresses and threats re-emerge entering season four, Daniel has a truce and alliance with his former rival Johnny for now. The fourth season of Cobra Kai premieres in late 2021.
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