Cobra Kai season 2 sees Daniel LaRusso open his own dojo, and Ralph Macchio tells Hidden Remote how his character is evolving from student to sensei.
Cobra Kai‘s second season finds Daniel LaRusso embarking on the ultimate journey. After what happened in the first season, Daniel’s made the momentous decision to teach Miyagi-do—and put himself on another collision course with old rival Johnny Lawrence.
As fans continue to watch the second season on YouTube Premium, Ralph Macchio spoke with Hidden Remote to discuss getting to play Daniel for another season, how more of his character’s perspective comes into season 2, and just where Daniel is headed next.
Learn more about Cobra Kai in our interview with Ralph below and then watch the entire second season on YouTube Premium now. If you don’t have a subscription yet, you can still see the season premiere for free on the YouTube channel!
Hidden Remote: Since Cobra Kai began, have you seen an increased awareness of the Karate Kid franchise, or more people recognizing you? Has it connected with that new generation of viewers?
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Ralph Macchio: I think so. I get a lot of young people that have watched the show, or watched it with their parents…and then they go back and watch the movie.
It’s really interesting; that also happened with How I Met Your Mother, when we did little cameos on that, which was fun because it had such a young audience. I had so many high school and college kids going oh, I loved you on How I Met Your Mother and then I remember when I was a little kid I watched that movie, but then I revisited it.
It’s one of those times where a film 35 years old can still connect with an audience and now be relevant, because it connects with present-day storytelling while still paying homage to the legacy of what it was and what it is.
HR: The first season of Cobra Kai was largely through Johnny Lawrence’s eyes. Does Daniel LaRusso’s perspective come through more in season 2?
RM: The smart angle in for this show is that it came in through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence and whatever happened to the kid, now man, and what did he fully grow up to be and exploring that side of things. Then on the flip side, you go back and forth to where [Daniel] LaRusso is at this point in his life.
The second season is, John Kreese throws a big wrench into the whole Cobra Kai of it all, and then you have the Miyagi-do side where LaRusso is filling that void in his life. Getting back into martial arts as a teacher-mentor to try and show a better way than the negative stye of martial arts that Cobra Kai is. It kind of balances itself out and flips back and forth.
Now that Martin Kove’s character is in the show, there’s still a lot of the Cobra Kai storyline and backstory between Johnny Lawrence and John Kreese. But that sort of leads into what’s going on for LaRusso and his side, and it balances out. I think if it leans, it still leans based on the show being from that angle and that direction, but you can’t have one without the other. It completes the world—the rivalry, the hurdles, the crisis, and that’s going on for both.
HR: John Kreese returns to complicate Johnny’s life, but Daniel’s mentor has passed on. Is there a character from his past that you’d like to see return?
RM: We’re always in discussions on that. Going forward, which hopefully we will continue to do, there will be a deeper dive into that side—if we get to season 3 and 4 and beyond. The struggles for Daniel this season are opening up Miyagi-do and trying to carry on the legacy of what his mentor, master, friend was able to give him in his life. It’s not always as easy as it looks. Just because you have knowledge of something doesn’t mean you can teach it and spread the gospel like Miyagi was able to do.
It also creates a lot of hurdles and challenges that maybe LaRusso thought were going to be a little easier. It puts some strain on his business, his marriage, on his family. A lot of the dilemma this season is how to balance his passion to spread a positive message through martial arts and yet what kind of strain that’s going to put on the rest of his life. And always, the Johnny Lawrence of it all—that they just push each other’s buttons and [that] creates a fun rivalry.
HR: Cobra Kai made Daniel a husband and a father. Has it been fun to explore this new aspect of his life that the movies obviously didn’t have?
RM: I enjoy it. First of all, I love the actors we have on the show; the young actors are just terrific and [that’s] a big part of season 2. It’s not just as simple as Miguel [Xolo Maridueña] being Johnny’s student and Robby [Tanner Buchanan] being his estranged son, who becomes my student. It becomes more of a populated world of these kids and their own struggles, navigating adolescence and dealing with two sides of the storm.
Daniel LaRusso’s intention, and even Johnny Lawrence’s, both their intentions are quite good—just things start to go awry when it gets more challenging. And in addition to that, one of the things that we address this season is a little more of an understanding of who Daniel and his wife Amanda [Courtney Henggeler] are, and what brought them together. The Miyagi-do of it all puts a pretty decent strain on the marriage, and his [car] dealership business, and he has to figure out how to keep that afloat. It’s fun to play that.
I have some terrific scenes early on with Mary Mouser, who plays my daughter. She’s wonderful. And Tanner Buchanan, who plays Robbie, we have some really nice scenes that could be lifted out of a show like Parenthood or an hour drama. It’s really rooted in truth and human reality. When you’re trying to shed light on the younger generation or when they shed some light on my character…It’s nice to have those grounded moments in both these pieces so far.
HR: William Zabka talked about passing his knowledge on to the younger cast, just like Daniel and Johnny are doing for the characters. Have you found yourself mentoring your co-stars?
RM: One hundred percent, and I will tell you now it’s the one thing I did not expect to be as rewarding as it is. It’s probably one of my favorite things about the success of this show and being involved with the show, is the respect that I get from the young cast. How I nurture and want to set an example for them going forward, and it is art imitates life.
We’re doing that in the show but I”m doing that moreso as Ralph to Mary, Tanner, Xolo, Gianni and all these other great kids in the cast. It’s been enriching, and if I can share a little bit of goodness that I put forth in my career and learned going forward, not just as an actor but as a person, and there’s a little bit of that they can take away and it makes their life even the smallest bit better or richer, then that’s the icing and cherry on top.
HR: How different is playing Daniel LaRusso in the TV format compared to the Karate Kid films?
RM: It’s a big difference, because it allows the characters to breathe. It allows the story to breathe. It doesn’t have to be just simply plot driven to the big climax that has to be done in two hours and ten minutes. It gives you the opportunity to explore and do deeper dives in areas, to be grey, whereas the Karate Kid film was, for all the right reasons, was very black and white, good over evil. There was no doubt.
When you went to see that movie in 1984 and after, nobody really felt that Daniel LaRusso wasn’t the hero of the movie or that Cobra Kai were not the villains. Now going forward, you go from a different perspective. Billy talks about this and I concur, you could take anyone’s point of view and it is true and right for them. That fight on the beach in the early act of the Karate Kid film, when you look at it from Daniel’s perspective and you look at it from Johnny’s perspective, Ali’s perspective, Freddy’s—everyone has another story to tell from what they were seeing and where they were coming from.
Cobra Kai does a great job as a series of doing that, and that’s what’s kind of cool. You see a little bit of that this season and hopefully going forward.
Cobra Kai season 2 is streaming now on YouTube Premium, with the first episode available for free on the show’s YouTube channel.