When the first Karate Kid film was released in 1984, the initial response was that it was a pint-sized Rocky (directed by that film’s John G. Avildsen), but it very quickly became a part of pop culture and was so successful that it inspired two direct sequels, a spin-off and a reboot. At the same time, it gave star Ralph Macchio the role by which he would be identified for most of his life. And now, 35 years later, he has returned to the role of Daniel LaRusso for the YouTube original series Cobra Kai, which has streamed two seasons worth of episodes with a third on the way — all of which is opening the concept up to a whole new generation of viewers.
“It is pretty amazing,” Ralph tells Closer Weekly while attending this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. “What’s interesting is that we were talking the other day about how some of the younger generation kind of backs into the Karate Kid franchise. They hear about this show, their friends see this show, their parents are watching this show, then they watch the show. It’s compelling, they get involved, and then all of a sudden they watch the movies and they go back, and everything becomes more relevant. As opposed to us, where we grew up with the movies and now the show is another level and contemporary from that. The other thing is that it just marries nostalgia and present relevance together. That’s the recipe that these three guys [the producers] were able to do. So often these things are like a quick cash grab or a bad idea and it’s ruining the movie or whatever, but they’ve taken it and it’s got its own flavor, yet it’s comfort food of yesterday.”
That “food” wasn’t always so comfortable for Ralph, who for many years seemed to distance himself from the character and the franchise. “Well, listen, I’ve been pitched Karate Kid ideas for over 30-something years,” he laughs. “Everyone says, ‘Hey, you know what would be great? You have a kid, and then this and that.’ It always felt best to let the legacy stand as it was, but then part of what drew me to this was Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald and Hayden Schloosberg‘s passion. They’re the three geeks that saw the movie a billion times, they’re living their dream. They’re writing the show that they know the fans want to see, because they are the fans. That was part of the reason, but also in this present day, you have these outlets now, these streaming services, these places where you can make literally a five-hour movie and cut it up into 10 half-hour parts. That’s in essence how we make the show.
“It’s 10 episodes,” he adds, “but it’s really just one movie cut up. Ten or 15 years ago if you were doing a sequel to Karate Kid, it would in essence have to be a two-hour major motion picture. There, the characters don’t get to breathe and you’d have to have this big fight scene at the end. Here we get to dive into the nuances of these characters, introduce new characters and let the universe breathe. We pay homage to the past, yet make it fresh entertainment.”
Please scroll down for a quick guide to what’s come before in the world of The Karate Kid and the rest of our interview with Ralph Macchio, who teases season 3 of Cobra Kai.
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