NEW YORK — After starring in three “Karate Kid” films in the 1980s, Ralph Macchio says he “basically said ‘no’ for 30 years” to ideas for more.
“It felt better and smarter to leave the legacy alone,” said Macchio, who is now 57. He didn’t want to “taint the legacy with a short-sighted idea or cash grab.”
The “Cobra Kai” creators changed his mind with an idea about a half-hour series streaming on YouTube Premium. It takes place 34 years after the first movie.
Former nemesis Johnny Lawrence (again played by William Zabka) defines down on his luck. He’s living in a run-down apartment, has just been fired from his job as a handy man, and he keeps seeing ads for Daniel LaRusso’s successful car dealerships.
Lawrence ends up opening his own Cobra Kai karate studio (using the same aggressive principles that he was taught and displayed in the films) and LaRusso discovers it driving by.
A martial arts rivalry is reignited as if it were yesterday.
“You would think some high school nemesis opening up a karate dojo would be like, ‘You know what? Let him have his thing’ but for LaRusso, it snaps back into yesterday and that’s what’s fun about the Johnny Lawrence/LaRusso rivalry, is that they push each other’s buttons,” said Macchio.
The first season, which launched in 2018, scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and its first episode has more than 60 million views.
“I certainly had a feeling that the fan base was out there and that people, if we were able to present it in a smart way, that they would be interested in these characters decades later,” said Macchio.
All 10 episodes of season two are now streaming and season three has been ordered.
And, some intrigue for fans: Elisabeth Shue confirms she’s been approached to also revive her character, Ali, from the films. (She played LaRusso’s girlfriend.)
“I have seen it and I thought it was well done,” she said. “I’m thinking about it.”
Jill Dobson contributed to this report.
Alicia Rancilio, The Associated Press