‘All our characters are flawed’: Actor Ralph Macchio on 'Cobra Kai'
Actor Ralph Macchio speaks to Katie Ellis about what’s new in the latest season of Cobra Kai, working with a young cast, and continuing The Karate Kid legacy
How would you describe Season 5 of Cobra Kai?
It is different from any of the previous seasons. Like every season, we change gear again. For Daniel (Macchio’s character), it’s a case of him being the only one who knows how insanely evil Terry Silver (the antagonist) is. The question is, “Can he convince everyone else?” but there are also many other new twists and turns. It’s a roller-coaster ride.
Did you face any new challenges playing Daniel this season?
I did, actually. You will see that Daniel goes off the rails in a way that we haven’t seen before. He really loses it. That was a different challenge for me and a lot of fun to play.
The end of Season 4 alluded to the return of Chosen Toguchi (played by Yuji Okumoto), who was the villain in The Karate Kid II. How does having him back in Daniel’s life change things? It’s a big moment in the show. Having a character like Chosen return and seeing him undergo full redemption is an exciting part of this season that propels the story forward.
Is there pressure that comes with trying to make each new season of Cobra Kai better than the last?
It’s a pressure we welcome and a challenge we relish. Every new season is about trying to up the ante. We never want to be just coasting with these characters. We’re always adding ingredients and we have definitely done that this season.
Do you ever get injured during the fight scenes that are such a big part of the show?
Oh, sure. Back in the Eighties, almost every scene involved Daniel getting his ass kicked, so I’m used to it (laughs). I’m always willing to take the hit and, me being a 98-lb weakling, I often go flying. It hurts, especially at my age, and it’s harder to do that now, but I try to get through it with stretching. The goal is for us to look convincing. It’s not about making Daniel look superhuman because he is not.
Does it ever get competitive between you and William Zabka (who plays Johnny Lawrence) when it comes to fight scenes?
Yeah, it’s all part of it, but it’s deeper than just that now. Johnny and Daniel both have good intentions. They both care about the kids, but they still both tend to push each other’s buttons.
Do you ever get nostalgic for your time shooting The Karate Kid when you are making the show?
I do. I remember, for Season 2, when we rebuilt Mr Miyagi’s house, it really did feel like being transported back 30 years. I was overcome with emotion. I felt like I was back where the magic happened all those years ago. Without Mr Miyagi and that father-son relationship, we wouldn’t be here continuing this story, so I’m proud that we can pay homage to the past while making a show that is very much about right now.
Did you ever think that Cobra Kai would become the global phenomenon that it has?
Right from the get-go, I knew it was something special, but now it has this global audience, which is beyond expectations. We had no idea that the show would blow up the way it has. Now I’m excited about this new season and hopefully more to come.
Why do you think people love the show so much?
It’s a testament to the great writing and the fact that we deliver what fans want. Cobra Kai is a mix of nostalgia and things that are relevant right now. You have old guys like me (laughs) from the movies and then you have a young cast that delivers new stories. All of our characters are flawed in some way and I think that makes them compelling.
It’s been almost 40 years since you were first cast as the Karate Kid. What do you think your reaction would’ve have been then if someone had told you that you’d be playing the same character in your sixties?
I would’ve thought they were crazy. Filming the first movie, I remember hoping it would just turn out well. The moment I knew maybe we had something special was after the movie was previewed and people came out of the theatres trying to do the crane kick (laughs). Our producer said then that we might end up making a couple more, which we did, but never did I think we would be here now with Cobra Kai. It’s incredible.