Ralph Macchio Returns as Daniel LaRusso in The YouTube Red series, COBRA KAI.
Ralph Macchio has had an illustrious career appearing in numerous projects over the years including the critically acclaimed My Cousin Vinny, Ugly Betty, and How I Met Your Mother. Most recently you’ve seen him in a recurring role as Officer Haddix in HBO’s The Deuce and will guest-star in a multi-episode appearance on the CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait. But let’s be honest, he will alway be known as the iconic character of Daniel LaRusso, The Karate Kid.
Macchio will now be making every 80’s kid’s dreams come true by reuniting with William Zabka in the YouTube Red series Cobra Kai which premieres today, May 2nd.
Legion of Leia: Can you tell about how this came together? The creators are John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg who wrote and directed Harold and Kumar and Hot Tub Time Machine’s, Josh Heald. You and William Zabka are EP’s, how and when did you get involved?
Ralph Macchio: Listen, I said no for thirty years. Anytime someone would say “Hey you know what would be a great idea?” Not that I wouldn’t listen, as much as there just wasn’t anything fresh. Ya know, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, kind of theory. I like protecting the legacy of what we were magically able to do, back then. Who knew that it would become pop culture, you know “wax on, wax off” would become part of the American Lexicon. You can’t plan that and I’ve always been very protective and still am. even as we shot this, of Daniel LaRusso and what that character has become to the world, more than me. I was just the guy that got the part. So, John, Hayden, and Josh at the biggest Karate Kid fans you will ever meet. This movie is Star Wars, to them. They know more about the movie, way more than I do. It’s part of their childhood. They always had, and you can ask them, they always had this in their mind how to do this and when. Platforms now give you the ability to; in essence, this is a five-hour movie. So they came in with a very well-crafted angle and they all claimed they were all Daniel LaRusso’s growing up in Jersey, but dreamed of being as cool as the Cobra Kai. That’s where the concept came from the angle of what happened to this guy, what happened with Johnny Lawrence? Why is the way he is? That was a fresh angle in and how can LaRusso and his rivalry be reignited and yet create a next generation high school world that’s dealing with bullying, in the present day. They flew to New York, and I was probably the last piece because I’ve always had the most reservations, but this felt fresh, like it could be another chapter as opposed to ok we’re trying to recreate it or some kind of parody.
Certainly, we’ve done such great stuff, comedically. How I Met Your Mother and the Barney Stinson theory, which is in essence what is the Cobra Kai internet conversation now. Justice for Johnny, was it an illegal kick? I digress. It was John, Josh, and Hayden, they came sat me down, went through their angle. We went back and forth and it was a collaboration all around. Billy’s involvement and mine and the essence of Miyagi’s influence on Daniel Larusso and his adult life, even though he isn’t there anymore, and that’ll grow more and more as the series goes on. But you know Johnny Lawrence is Daniel’s kryptonite, so there’s great humor in that, but also great heart. And hopefully some goosebumps along the way and great surprises and callbacks that diehards will know. In the interim, we want to create great characters with the younger actors…
Legion of Leia: The casting is phenomenal. There are some characters, that as I watched I was wondering where did these kids come from. They’re amazing!
Ralph Macchio: They’re really terrific. I said the Karate Kid film has that. The casting happened for a reason. You know they were looking for a Toshiro Mifune type classic Japanese actor and in walks Arnold from Happy Days, and with an Oscar nomination creates one of the great mentor roles in American Cinema. The moons were all in proper alignment for the Karate Kid Film and it kind of feels that way with some of these young actors that signed on, that we might be able to do that again.
Legion of Leia: Absolutely! Karate Kid is still relevant because it is so relatable, even now the themes that it touches on. I feel that you did that with Cobra Kai. There are themes that will really resonate with adults, kids while maintaining the heart and essence of Karate Kid. Can you tell me a little bit, without revealing too much, where Daniel LaRusso is at this point in his life?
Ralph Macchio: I think so; I’ve got to be careful. There are some great plot points I don’t give away. But just like anyone life is a journey for all of us. There’s a great line, one of the great Miyagis “Not everything is as it seems” and so with LaRusso, he’s had some success with his life as opposed to Johnny Lawrence who got kicked in the face in 1984, that was probably the best thing that’s happened to him. With laRusso he’s charmed his way into a beautiful wife, a couple of great kid. He’s become the Auto King of the San Fernando Valley. He’s trying to do the right thing as a parent, the right thing with his business and wife, but there’s certainly a void in his life since Miyagi has passed. His daughter, who used to be daddy’s little girl, is now navigating adolescence. For both Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, they’re duel protagonist and duel antagonist. They still get under each other’s skin and it helps with the humor and the comedy and also to the flip side its two men navigating their lives at this point and trying to the right thing for the younger generation.
Legion of Leia: And that’s what makes all of us human and makes the show relatable.
Ralph Macchio: Right
Legion of Leia: Stephen Hawking recently passed away and something really struck me, because I had just seen Cobra Kai and that is one of his quotes “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny” which I think encapsulates your show really well. You touched on it a bit, but can you talk about the humor? Tonally, it’s different from Karate Kid but it works so well.
Ralph Macchio: Oh, that’s great to hear. You know, you’re a fan, you’re a customer, a consumer…
Legion of Leia: Absolutely!
Ralph Macchio: That’s so nice and it’s great to hear those kinds of comments. Tonally, it’s challenging because you don’t want to poke fun at the material itself, but you need to have a sense of humor about it. It’s concept just by virtue of the fact these two men in their fifties or whatever you want to say we are…however old we look, we both look pretty, pretty good…
Legion of Leia: You look really good, you do!
Ralph Macchio: Not too bad, could be worse. The fact that they still act like high school rivals adds to the humor and also, I think that will please the fan base. I think that in reference to what you’re saying it’s important, even in the original Karate Kid film, as much as it’s a little campy when you look back at it, now, besides the big hair and wardrobe, but it worked on a human level and the beautiful thing about Daniel laRusso, that character and all the characters in that movie, he had no business winning anything so he represented every kid next door and Mr. Miyagi represented that magical human yoda we all would love to have but could put his hands together and fix somebody’s leg or shoulder, which is kind of ridiculous but we love it because it’s wish fulfillment…
Legion of Leia: Right.
Ralph Macchio: I think, I hope there are those elements that will be woven throughout the show, that real heart and real human connection. And there’s very flushed out stories with our younger cast. It’s very ensemble. Right now it looks like Batman versus Superman, but there’s a lot more that will flush it out and hoping that it’s something that is around for many seasons to come, we hope.
Legion of Leia: I hope so! Now, did you do any physical training for the show? Are you guys going to be facing each in the dojo?
Ralph Macchio: You know, that’s the question everyone wants to know “When are you going to fight?!”
Legion of Leia: Well, exactly!
Ralph Macchio: Yes, we did do training, it’s lot tougher at blah, blah, blah than it was at 19, 20 however young I was, a lot easier back then, but then again a lot of the fighting will be saved for the youth’s, to quote My Cousin Vinny, the action sequences are very much in their world. You know there is always an element of a chance, you could argue it’s the Ross and Rachael of our series, you know. That’s how John, Josh, and Hayden have always pitched it.
Legion of Leia: One last question and it’s kind of silly but mostly serious…
Ralph Macchio: Ok, go ahead. I’ve heard almost all of them!
Legion of Leia: Here we go, you get picked up for a second season who is the big fight? It’s you and A. Robocop B. Terminator 2’s T- 1000 or C. Danny Trejo’s Machete?
Ralph Macchio: Oh wow, that’s…ok, Terminator, that’s the liquid guy?
Legion of Leia: Yes, the liquid yea, yea, yea…
Ralph Macchio: That’s a tough one, I love that character…Who would I rather fight..I can always freeze him, but when he thaws out…Yea, um Robocop and who’s the other one, oh yea, Machete. You know what, just because I loved the villain, I loved the liquid villain so much in Terminator 2. I’ll go with that!
Legion of Leia: Thank you so much!