Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald, Hayden Schlossberg interview: ‘Cobra Kai’ creators
“The show has had a long journey and we’ve been proud of the work that we’ve been doing since the beginning,” declares “Cobra Kai” co-creator Jon Hurwitz. “Every season of ‘Cobra Kai,’ while we try to take things up a notch and bring it to the next level in a lot of ways, we also try to stay true to the roots of what we love about this franchise,” adds Hayden Schlossberg, who alongside fellow co-creators Hurwitz and Josh Heald are now in post-production for the show’s highly anticipated fifth season. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Netflix blockbuster “Cobra Kai” revisits old rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) 30 years after the original 1984 Oscar-nominated classic “The Karate Kid.” While the series’ first two seasons flew under the radar on YouTube’s premium service, it developed a loyal fan-base who relished reliving the decades-long feud between Johnny and Daniel as they fostered a new generation competing for All Valley karate supremacy. The series catapulted into a bona fide pop culture phenomenon when Netflix picked up the series in 2020, becoming the most-watched series on the platform. “Cobra Kai” also became a critical darling, with its third season scoring four Emmy nominations last year (including for Best Comedy Series).
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Season 4 kicked off where the third season ended, as Johnny and Daniel finally come together to take down the nefarious Kreese (Martin Kove, also reprising his role from the original film), Lawrence’s old sensei, who has taken over Johnny’s Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny’s former karate prodigy Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) has recovered from his season 3 back injury, while Robby (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s estranged son, has turned his back on Daniel, joining forces with the Kreese. The plot thickens as the regular cast expands, with new kid Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young), fan-fave duo Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) and Demetri (Gianni DeCenzo), LaRusso teenagers Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Anthony (Griffin Santopietro) and Sam’s arch-rival Tory (Peyton List) joining the fray as series regulars. Old grudges, blood, sweat, tears and an enthralling All-Valley Karate Tournament that dominates the last two episodes of the season build towards a thrilling conclusion as Kreese is shockingly usurped by an even greater threat, Kreese’s former right-hand man, the diabolical Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith, also a new series regular this season, who reprises his role from the 1989 second sequel “The Karate Kid, Part III”).
“Cobra Kai” is funny, action-packed and nostalgic. That is undoubtedly three of its most popular drawcards. But it also exhibits this endearing sincerity as it explores themes like the role that father figures play in our lives, letting go of the past and how you can be stronger together if you set aside your differences. These themes permeate each season as the show introduces new characters, often younger versions of the core characters we’ve come to love within the beloved franchise, while Johnny and Daniel grow and learn from their wins and losses. That is absolutely true of the Johnny character, which Zabka develops from a one-dimensional bully to a fully-fleshed out “work in progress” trying to find his feet . “We thought that taking this character from the past, who was a villain and making him a sympathetic lead,” Hurwitz explains, “you’re emotionally invested in his story deeply, to the point of tears. You watch him cry and you cry,” he says.
We love the original ‘Karate Kid’ and the relationship between Mr Miyagi and Daniel is the central one,” Schlossberg explains when thinking about how father figures have been a central focus of the show from the beginning. “That relationship between mentor and student, father figure and son or daughter; we played that in a variety of different ways and relationships. That’s the benefit of having a series is you can explore all the different types of relationships,” he says. Heald also agrees that the past — whether nostalgically or as emotional baggage — often plays a huge role in the central narrative of the show. He also explains that each season is split into two parts, so that audiences are kept guessing about where the show might take them by season’s end. “In season one, it was Miguel going from zero to defeating his bully. That’s the first half of that season and then where do you go from there,” Heald says, noting that they “try to do that every season to upend the speculation in terms of where the season is going.”