'Cobra Kai' stars talk Elisabeth Shue's long-awaited return to the 'Karate Kid' universe: 'She's a great actress, and she took her time'

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read

Warning: Cobra Kai Season 3 spoilers ahead.

It’s been the most highly anticipated return of a Karate Kid cast member in the YouTube-turrned-Netflix hit Cobra Kai — at least for those of us who crushed on Ali Mills while growing up in the ‘80s.

We knew Elisabeth Shue, the actress who helped spur the heated rivalry between Ralph Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence, was coming. That much was clear from various hints dropped in Season 2, culminating with a season finale tease that all but assured it. We just didn’t know when.

And Season 3 makes us sweat for it, not bringing Ali back to the San Fernando Valley until the penultimate episode, when she meets Johnny for lunch and the pair rekindle their relationship at — where else? — Golf N’ Stuff. Daniel, meanwhile, also sees his high school sweetheart at a country club holiday party in the season finale before the trio playfully spar together.

In a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Macchio and Lawrence talk about finally bringing Shue back into the fold, hinting that the actor/co-executive producers were in long pursuit of the 57-year-old Adventures in Babysitting and Leaving Las Vegas actress who’s currently starring on Amazon’s popular superhero series The Boys.

“I think I lived everybody’s fantasy of being Daniel LaRusso at Golf N’ Stuff with Ali Mills on his arm,” says Zabka, 55. “To kind of recreate those moments was so much fun and we just laughed the whole time. She’s awesome, Elisabeth. We were good friends when we made [1984’s The Karate Kid] and lost touch over the years. But it was just an instant chemistry.

“She didn’t have to come back, though. They put it out there for her to come back, but it had to make sense for her, and it had to be right. She’s an artist. She’s a great actress, and she took her time and made sure that it made sense. So it was a big deal for her to put Ali back on.”

Zabka calls the dinner party exchange between Daniel, Johnny and Ali “one of my favorite moments, if not my favorite moment” of Season 3. Macchio, 59, loved the send-off between Daniel and Ali, especially given the couple’s high school romance was barely given closure in 1986’s The Karate Kid Part II, with Daniel simply lamenting to Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) that she’d “fallen in love with some football player from UCLA.”

Speaking of Part II, Cobra Kai’s Season 3 also returns another pair of beloved actors from Daniel’s jaunt to Okinawa, with Tamilyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto reprising their roles as Kumiko and Chozen, respectively, when Daniel returns to Asia in Episode 4.

“Every actor who was in the original film and [even Part II], there’s a connection, there’s an unspoken chemistry that we all have, and everybody brings their best to it,” Macchio says. “You feel a responsibility to what got you here.”

Cobra Kai is currently streaming on Netflix.

Watch Macchio and Zabka talk about initial low expectations for hit show:

— Videos produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo

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