'Cobra Kai': Ralph Macchio never pictured his 'Karate Kid' hero as a car salesman

Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo Movies

There have been plenty of surprises to come from Cobra Kai, the new YouTube Premium series that reboots the Karate Kid film series launched in 1984. First and foremost, it’s surprising just how good the web series is: Cobra Kai has drawn an overwhelmingly positive reaction from fans, strong reviews, and impressive metrics (so far more than 36 million viewers have streamed the first episode, which you can watch for free).

The show also re-enters the lives of the original film’s main characters, not through the point of view of hero Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) but of his high school nemesis, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). And much like a viral video from two years ago called “Daniel Is the REAL Bully,” Cobra Kai makes you sympathize with Johnny (now a struggling handyman) in the present day and rethink his character’s entire past. Take, for instance, the fact that it was Daniel who moved in on Johnny’s girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue) or that Johnny was being emotionally tormented by the wicked sensei Kreese (Martin Kove).

“I think everyone polishes their past and sees it through their own lens, and we’re seeing it through Johnny’s lens, which I think is skewed a little bit,” Zabka, 52, told Yahoo Entertainment (watch above), when he dropped by our studios with Macchio and Kove. “But I think coming in through Johnny’s eyes this way has been a fun approach into the universe of Karate Kid. It’s a smart way in.”

Through Johnny’s eyes, Daniel is the villain. LaRusso, the former teen champ whose questionably legal crane kick defeated Lawrence, is now a wealthy car dealership magnate, a clever twist on the “wax on, wax off” training methods of his late mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita).

Macchio, 56, admits he was surprised by the direction in which the show’s creators — Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald — took his iconic character.

“There was a decent amount that felt like not necessarily where I would have gone if I wrote it,” Macchio said. “Fortunately, I didn’t write it, and Jon, Josh, and Hayden did.

“So I had to let go and trust the fan fiction of it all. As far as being the auto king of the San Fernando Valley and doing these car commercials, I probably wouldn’t have gone in that direction. I said, ‘I see it’s funny, we just need to make it real.’ And we found that balance together.”

Cobra Kai is now streaming on YouTube Premium.

Watch the first episode:

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