As the show prepares for its second season, some of the cast and crew gathered at the con for some waxing on, and a little waxing off. Ralph Macchio (Daniel) and William Zabka (Johnny) were present, as well as the creators of the series. Did everyone get along, or did everyone start right in with the Karate?
The audience looked ready for action, as there were tons of Karate Kid headbands being worn in the audience. Most of these were given out before the panel, but not all of them. Things began with a replay of the final fight from Season 1, and the audience cheered and booed for Johnny and Daniel— it was like watching a live match. This audience loved Johnny, and they had nothing but jeers for Mr. Larusso. This was in spite of his advice to his student, which was "find your balance." Yeah, there was no balance here. It was all about Johnny...especially when he tells his mentee not to "fight dirty." He's come so far!
Macchio and Zabka then took the stage (for real) to rapturous applause. They were joined by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, the creators of the show.
How did this show come to be? All three of the creators all found that they had a shared love of the original films, much like the audience in the room. They recall seeing an interview with Zabka back in the day, noticing the "humanity" of his character. Zabka had said that Johnny was just another High School kid, going through his own story. The idea for Cobra Kai, the view into his world, was born in that moment. A Jaden Smith reboot had to come and go, but the time finally came.
For Macchio, it was the excitement of the creators that got him interested, as well as what he experienced when watching Creed, another film that deconstructs the antagonists from a famous fighting franchise, Rocky. Thanks to the streaming boom (and YouTube bulking up on originals) it became possible, and like Carl Weathers, these guys got a stew going.
Zabka was pleased to show another side of his character, recounting how he met with the creators (who he had worked with before) and they just slowly pulled a black headband out of a bag. "Then I signed something and now I'm here," he joked. He also referenced his pop-ups on How I Met Your Mother (his arc with Macchio in particular) and his appearance in the video called Sweep the Leg.
"These guys stripped him of everything," Zabka said, speaking of how Johnny is living now. He's very much in favor of it, saying that in a long form series, they can explore all of the various shades of the character. This show gives them a "prism" to tell both sides. Macchio agreed, saying that the original movie was very "black and white," and that this show allows "the overall arc" to have more nuance to it. He also said that they plan to come back here every year— they're nowhere close to being done with the telling of this story.
"We wanted to really explore what happens when a bully kid meets a Johnny Lawrence-type meets a Mr. Miyagi type character," Hurwitz said, noting that bullies (in real life as well as in television) haven't gone anywhere. They've changed, though, and they are aware of how bullying has taken on many new (and awful) forms in 2018. He also noted the difference of the show revisiting Daniel— this time, a Daniel without Miyagi. The drama goes deeper and wider, and they all seem pleased about it.
In terms of the physicality of returning to the role, Macchio says that he didn't have that hard a time of it in Season 1. He trained a little, but he was far more in the mentor mode. For Season 2, however, he "needs to be a little more on top of my martial arts game," he said. Zabka joked that he's been training non-stop, waiting for his moment.
The now famous REO Speedwagon singalong scene was referenced, and Macchio said that he loved shooting the scene. The audience beckoned them to recreate the moment right there in the room, but they didn't take the bait. Zabka also notes that he loved the first reunion of the two, when Daniel enters to dojo for the first time. The moment was huge for everybody, Hurwitz noted. Zabka had already started filming at that point, but that reunion was Macchio's first day. "We noticed a few more wrinkles on each other," he said, adding that "life has happened for these characters."
Next year will mark the 35th anniversary of the original movie, and Macchio "always felt that it was there," in terms of the ongoing love for that film. "I knew it was out there..." he said, but he didn't necessarily see this new show coming. "It was the right time, the right platform, the right cast, and we're just gonna keep it going."
"We have a general idea of where we want to go," Schlossberg said when asked about multiple seasons. Somes things that didn't fit in the first ended up being pushed to the second, but it sounds like they are planning for plenty more than just 2 seasons. There are plans in place, and surprises in store. "We have multiple seasons planned out," Heald said, to the joyful cheers of the crowd. For the record, Season 2 will comprise 10 episodes. It may also feature the return of more "familiar faces."
Heald also praised the young cast, saying, "from top to bottom, they come prepared every day, ready to fight." They're in school for part of the day, then in Karate training, and then they're filming. "It's become a real family," Schlossberg echoed. Macchio agreed, praising them for "carrying the torch of the franchise."
We then got a video sneak peek of a new location from the young cast— they rebuilt Mr. Miyagi's house (again) for Season 1, but this time they fully rebuilt his iconic backyard. It will feature in Season 2, and Macchio noted that it was wonderful to shoot there. It pays respect not only to Mr. Miyagi, but to the sadly departed Pat Morita himself. Morita's spirit was definitely in the room, and Macchio is more than ready to celebrate his legacy however he can.
When it came time for fans to ask questions, one fan thanked everyone involved that the series is so good "in the midst of this terrible age of reboots and remakes."
Will we ever see Daniel and Johnny face off once again? Macchio answered, "Yes, no, maybe."
Cobra Kai will return for Season 2 in Spring 2019.
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