'Cobra Kai' Creators on the Move to Netflix & What's Up for Season 3
When news of a streaming series reviving The Karate Kid broke, there was understandably some skepticism. Could Cobra Kai capture the same spirit that made the ‘80s film franchise so beloved?
Those doubts were washed away as viewers found creative senseis Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg managed to stay true to the source material while introducing new characters for a next generation.
Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) seamlessly reprise their respective roles more than 30 years later. Same can be said for other members of the original cast including the mercilessness of John Kreese (Martin Kove). Thanks to strong word of mouth and positive reviews, the series grew in popularity.
So much so that Netflix moved in to not only sweep up the first two seasons that originally ran as a YouTube Premium original but provide the upcoming Season 3 a home.
Coming off that exciting news, we caught up with writers and executive producers Heald, Hurwitz and Schlossberg.
Before the first two seasons arrive on Netflix, audiences are getting a chance to check out The Karate Kid movies on the service. I think this gives you a new appreciation for Cobra Kai and the great job you’ve done continuing the story.
Jon Hurwitz: We know there are a lot of people who loved The Karate Kid movies back in the day and are gearing up to watch Cobra Kai. So it gives a good refresher course. There are fans of Cobra Kai who watched those films when they were younger. They can really enjoy those Easter eggs and references that we make. How Cobra Kai is really a continuation of The Karate Kid. There is this whole new generation of fans of Cobra Kai. A lot of teenagers who love the show are seeing The Karate Kid films for the first time.
They are learning that, wow, Daniel LaRusso was this underdog who we should feel sorry for. There are people who come into Cobra Kai not seeing The Karate Kid movies, and they’re conditioned to love Johnny Lawrence and trust his telling of the past. I think one of the things we pride ourselves on is making a truly balanced story where there are multiple protagonists. Johnny, Daniel, Miguel, Robby Samantha, Tory, everybody is a protagonist and an antagonist depending on where you’re coming in from. Having The Karate Kid films on there allows younger fans to see what an amazing character Daniel LaRusso is.
Cobra Kai established itself well on YouTube’s streaming service. How has the transition in now working with the folks at Netflix?
Josh Heald: Netflix is a giant, awesome entertainment machine that knows what they’re doing and how to do it and how to be efficient while doing it. Which is not to say that YouTube was not. We enjoyed a great tenure with YouTube. We were very fortunate to have creative executives who gave us the freedom to make the show we wanted to make. What you see is what our vision was. We felt blessed. Obviously, there were limitations to how far that platform could take this show.
Coming over to Netflix, I’m not sure any of us had any fear that creatively the show would be steered in a different direction. Not only were there not issues whatsoever, all the departments came together to assist the launch of the show....It was just a very welcome and enthusiastic arrival where we were met with people who were fans of the show and The Karate Kid movies and universe. It was about as smooth as we would want it.
When you trace back the first two seasons, what is a favorite episode or moment you’re particularly excited for new viewers to see or revisit?
Hayden Schlossberg: That’s a tough one, because there are so many moments that we loved in the first two seasons as well as the third season coming up. It’s tough to figure out even a top 10 list in any category whether it’s funny Johnny-Daniel moments, good rivalries. In every season, we have great scenes where Johnny and Daniel end up in the same scene together. All the history between them plays a role in what’s going on in their lives today.
When we’re able to do that, it’s so rewarding for the audience that grew up with these movies because they’re watching what really feels like two guys in a mid-life crisis dealing with relatable things. But with a history and backstory that is very rich. There is so much comedic opportunities as well as tragic opportunities with their rivalries spilling down to the kids. It’s like picking your favorite child. I would say for me personally it’s those Johnny-Daniel moments that are rife with history and rivalry that are some of our favorites in every season.
Where are you at with Season 3? I know you’ve hinted its release is not too far down the road.
Hurwitz: In terms of Season 3, we don’t have an official release date or anything like that. We’re really focused on the excitement of people getting to discover Seasons 1 and 2 or rediscover them on Netflix.
Season 3 has been shot. It’s complete and awesome. Anyone who has watched the first two seasons, note we left season two with a lot of things that need to be answered for. We will get there when we get there. As of now we don't have anything to report as to when people will get to see it.
We left Season 2 with Danny and Johnny at a crossroad in their journeys. Miguel is seemingly knocking on death's door. Throw in the cliffhanger where Johnny doesn’t see former flame Ali Mills' Facebook friend request. Season 3 really does feel like the next phase of not only the show on a new platform, but the two’s lives as well.
Heald: We intentionally wanted to end Season 2 the way we did. Not to make everyone feel terrible, but because of the communal gut-punch and sympathy you go through as an audience once you get invested in these characters after 20 episodes.
There is a tremendous storytelling element to wading into tragedy. We touch upon everything in the show from comedy to action to teenage soap opera and drama to tragedy. We knew what we were doing and where we want to go from there. We didn't paint ourselves into any corner that we weren’t ready to escape from.
At the same time, we didn’t anticipate there would be as long of a wait for that next season and for people to see where we’re going from here. We’re excited for people to communally experience and re-experience Seasons 1 and 2. So when Season 3 comes, there is this collective payoff for everybody. What happened, where do we go from here, how do you pick up the pieces.
The characters on the show really are multi-dimensional. What it comes to the long-term plan of the series, do you have the end mapped out down the line? Has the last few months affected any of the story-telling moving forward?
Schlossberg: When we first pitched the idea and developed the show, we had an end goal in our minds in terms of where the characters are going. As you make the show and watch it yourself, your mind can change over time. But I think we still have the same general sunset in our mind and where it’s all heading.
That being said, what really fuels the story is our fandom and love of The Karate Kid. To be able to have this opportunity where we get to continue the story and play with the characters that were really important to us as kids. It’s a sandbox we don't want to get out of so soon. As long as there’s enough good ideas in there and storylines, we want to have fun and keep the story going as long as it doesn’t veer off course from where we ultimately want to head.
In terms of coronavirus, our storyline is currently taking place a year or two earlier. We have some time before our characters would have to deal with those issues. We’ll see when we get there. This is a show, as was the movies, that is a fun escapism. I don’t know how much we want to bring into the world.
What do you say to those who are going to watch Cobra Kai for the first time?
Hurwitz: We live in a world where there are a lot of remakes and reboots and sequels. What is unique about Cobra Kai is this is not a scenario where somebody took the property and said, “Hey, we got to find writers so we can make some more money off of Karate Kid.” This was something where the three of us were just passionate Karate Kid fans since childhood who happen to be filmmakers.
We had this idea we wanted to pursue. That we personally thought we would enjoy and fans would enjoy. A whole new generation can enjoy this new generation of characters. We wanted people to fall in love the same way we fell in love with Johnny, Daniel and Ali back in the day. We’ve been lucky enough to have had that opportunity at YouTube and carry out our vision. It has been an absolute dream come true to not only make the show but see the impact the show has had on the fan base.
To have parents tell us it’s one of the few shows they can watch with their children. Or for people in their 40s and 50s [saying] that it’s comfort food for them in a world we live in with drama and uncertain times. It’s something that makes them feel good and brings back positive memories.
Then teenagers today connect with Miguel, Sam, Robby and Tory and Hawk and all these character and being genuinely invested in their underdog stories. It has been very exciting to see.
When this show is on Netflix, it's going to be the culmination of what we set out to do from the beginning. Our thought was that this was a Netflix show. We loved shows like Stranger Things and from the beginning thought we could bring a show for audiences who loves Stranger Things or other shows on Netflix. It’s exciting that a wide array of people around the world are going to get to experience this show.
Cobra Kai, Seasons 1 and 2, August 28, Netflix
Cobra Kai, Season 3, TBA, Netflix