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Karate Kid star talks surprise return in Cobra Kai Season 3: 'It felt like no time had passed'

By Josh Weiss
Cobra Kai Season 3

Karate Kid fans received quite the surprise in Season 3 of Cobra Kai, which brought back yet another character from the iconic 1984 film. If you haven't watched the new season yet, be fair warned: the following contains major spoilers for the latest 10 episodes now streaming on Netflix.

With that warning out of the way, let's talk specifics.

The latest alumnus from the original movie to appear in the show is Elisabeth Shue (Back to the Future, The Boys), who reprised the role of love interest, Ali Mills. Thanks to Ali's two-episode storyline, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) were able to put their differences aside. Chatting with Entertainment Weekly, Shue recounted how she was spurred on to meet with the series' producers after working with director Dan Trachtenberg (a Karate Kid super-fan) on Amazon's The Boys.

"He told me what a great movie it is and how much he loved Cobra Kai, and that it would just be devastating — 'devastating,' he kept saying — for the fans and for the memory of The Karate Kid if I wasn’t [on the show]," she said. "I was like, 'Whoa – okay!' It was just very sweet, and it made me think, Oh, I haven’t really investigated this."

Stepping onto the set of Season 3 was like stepping back in time. "My chemistry with Ralph was the same, the same with Billy — it was odd!" Shue added. "It was literally like a high school reunion; it felt like no time had passed. Like none at all. We kept reminiscing and laughing, constantly reliving the first Karate Kid every minute between takes. Non-stop reminiscing about our experience and laughing about what a great movie it turned out to be."

While she dumped Johnny for Daniel in the '84 movie, Ali nearly shares a kiss with the former in Season 3. 

"One thing that was just so incredible was to realize that Billy and I, in the original Karate Kid," Shue explained. "We never ever spoke to each other except to punch each other, to throw a radio into the sand. We never got to have a [normal] scene. So I loved getting a chance to do that. In [Cobra Kai], we talked and communicated and acted together, and I loved that. So that was really surprising and wonderful to almost start a new relationship really."

Ali's eventual farewell allegedly brought up an unexpected wave of emotions for the actress, who felt like she was bidding farewell to her more formative years.

"I feel like in Ali, and maybe in me, it was this sense of saying goodbye to your childhood," she said. "I mean, that sounds pretty intense, but you know, your first crush, your first love — so to be able to experience the emotions that you felt for your first crush again… it really was a wonderful setup for these characters to be able to feel a loss of innocence and a reconnection and respect. To have those two go hand-in-hand, it was actually an amazing thing to feel as an actor and a human."

So, will Ali return in future seasons? "Well, we already have a plan. It’s going to be [in] Season 9," Shue joked. "Ali is going to come back to the Valley and start her own dojo, and it’s going to be a three-way fight for the soul of the Valley."

Aside from Zabka and Macchio, Shue is the latest Karate Kid veterans to appear in Cobra Kai after Martin Kove (Johnny's old sensei, "John Kreese") and Randee Heller (Daniel's mother, "Lucille LaRusso"). In addition, Ron Thomas, Tony O'Dell, and Rob Garrison returned to play Johnny's Cobra Kai peers: Bobby, Jimmy, and Tommy.

The first three seasons of Cobra Kai are now streaming on Netflix. A fourth season has already been green-lit.