Ralph Macchio Interview: ‘Cobra Kai’ Season 3 and Daniel’s Relationships

Ralph Macchio joined his Cobra Kai co-stars at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con, making the trek to the So Cal pop culture convention to discuss the popular YouTube Premium series. A premiere date for season three hasn’t been announced, however Macchio did confirm the upcoming season will feature his character, Daniel LaRusso, traveling to Okinawa. That trip will be part of a storyline that involves exploring the history of Miyagi-Do.

During our roundtable interview at SDCC, Ralph Macchio provided insight (minus any spoilers) into what’s in store for the LaRusso family in season three. He also touched upon what it means to have Daniel LaRusso and The Karate Kid embraced by a new generation of fans.

Does it amaze you that there’s this whole new generation of fans who are discovering you because of this? They know you anyway, but they really know you now through Cobra Kai.

Ralph Macchio: “Yeah. It’s pretty amazing. You know, it’s interesting. We were talking the other day, you know, how so much of the younger generation…I mean, we have this great young cast in the show…but some of the younger generation backs into the Karate Kid franchise. They hear about the show, their friends see the show, and a lot of their parents are watching the show. Then they watch the show and 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 the movies and then now the show’s another level.

The other thing is it just marries the nostalgia and present relevance together. That’s the recipe that these three guys were able to do. And so often it’s not. So often it’s like a quick cash grab or a bad idea. It ruins the movie or whatever. But they’ve taken it and it has its own flavor and yet it’s comfort food of yesterday. How about that?”

How hard was it to step back into the character all these years later?

Ralph Macchio: “Well, listen, I’ve been pitched over 30 something years, everyone says, ‘Hey, you know what would be great? You have a kid and this and this.’ It always felt best to let the legacy stand as it was. Part of what drew me to this, outside of Jon (Hurwitz), Josh (Heald) and Hayden’s (Schlossberg) 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 but it’s really just one movie cut up. And so, 10-15 years ago if you were doing a sequel to Karate Kid, it would, in essence, have to be a two-hour major motion picture. And so there the characters didn’t get to breathe, you’d have to have just a 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 and pay homage to the past yet we make it fresh entertainment.”

We always looked at him as the good guy and now we’re learning that’s not necessarily so.

Ralph Macchio: “Yeah. On this show all characters have grey areas. Each episode your allegiance can change. I mean, certainly at the onset of the series it was designed through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence. So, they set it up that Daniel LaRusso was kind of cocky, whatever. But LaRusso’s always had a cocky element about him. You know, if I got beat up once in 1984, I wouldn’t go back again. LaRusso kept going back. So, he did have a little bit of a…you know, spraying water on the guy in the bathroom stuff. But no one ever didn’t cheer for Daniel Russo in 1984. The kid was beaten up and he had this great mentor, this human Yoda who gave him all the answers.

Now he has all the good intentions, but he may also need balance in his life. And the same thing for Johnny Lawrence in a different way. It’s really a line Miyagi has in the movie, he said when he looks at the picture of the girl – Elizabeth Shue – and says, ‘Different but same.’ And I say, ‘Different but different.’ He goes, ‘No, different but same.’

It’s a theme that runs in our show – Lawrence and LaRusso are different but same. They both grew up without a father; they both had sensei mentors, one from a dark side and one from a light side. They both had martial arts in their lives. Who knows if they switched things, they might have been the other person. So that’s where it dives in, as opposed to LaRusso’s the bad guy now. His intentions are always good. Sometimes they get in each other’s way.”

The way that this last season ended, it feels like they’re about to be on pretty much the exact same page. Do you think they’re ever going to be able to co-exist in that way because the conflict of them is so essential to the structure of the show and who they are

Ralph Macchio: “That’s something we always talk about because it is a rivalry series and it’s built on that. Hatfields and the McCoys, you know the Capulets and the Montagues. I know we have the star-crossed lovers, like the young Romeo and Juliet. It does really have those; it is a soap opera in a way. But the beauty of how they’ve written it is we enjoy them when they’re getting along as much as we enjoy them when they’re in each other’s face. Because you know at any moment one little thing, time bomb, it’s like a minefield. I think that’s what’s going to keep, even if going forward they co-exist or work together in some way.

It’s the odd couple. It’s a married couple that can’t live with each other and can’t live without each other. I think that can be entertaining and still play into the rivalry of these guys pushing each other’s buttons.”

Will the upcoming season delve more into the marriage because there are obviously problems at this point?

Ralph Macchio: “I think so. I’m hoping so because that becomes real. Even in a successful marriage…I’ve been married 32 years, it’s the greatest in the world…but there are ebbs and flows, ups and downs, tough times and you know we fail constantly. You know, as parents we fail and in relationships we fail. It’s just about believing in the cohesiveness of the foundation of that, which is what I believe in. My wife and I feel that way, as far as being together always.

I think it’s important that Amanda and Daniel do have – this does create a setback but also I’d like for Amanda to realize why Daniel has overreacted about all of this because it has led to something. They need to better themselves. At the end of the day, you would love that marriage to be stronger once they go through that difficulty. But I’m hoping we don’t candy-coat that.

I know we are going to dive into the origin of Miyagi-Do. There’s a storyline that takes Daniel to Okinawa this season, so that’s big news. Not for the whole season but a little section. And he’s going to learn some things that he might not have known and so we all may not have learned. Then he’s going to bring that. And then the same thing will be for Cobra Kai, learning the base of what created Cobra Kai and where it went awry. And that’s kind of the cool stuff for this season.

Everybody wants to know about Elizabeth Shue and we don’t know yet. We’ll see.”

35 years later, why do we care about The Karate Kid, because people really do?

Ralph Macchio: “These are characters that we grew up with. These are characters that represent a piece of our childhood. The fact that we’ve been able to take those characters and the story and the events of that time and expand on it and create a whole new universe that still doesn’t leave tonally what it initially was is I think why it’s like having the best dessert ever.”