Ralph Macchio previews Cobra Kai season 3: Daniel is at 'rock bottom'

CURTIS BONDS BAKER / NETFLIX
Do you remember the beginning of the first Cobra Kai season, when Daniel LaRusso - carp all valley karate champion - was at the top of the world? Well. Forget all those happy times now because when season three kicks off on Netflix next month, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) is definitely not living his best life. His student Robby (Tanner Buchanan) goes missing after injuring Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) in a karate brawl, fighting his dealership, and rivalry with ex-sensei Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) flared up again. How will Daniel-san get out of this funk and save the valley from the evil Cobra Kai Sensei Kreese (Martin Kove)? EW asked Macchio, 59, to think about what to expect. (We are sorry.)
WEEKLY ENTERTAINMENT: How would Daniel describe his attitude when he goes into season three?
RALPH MACCHIO: There's a lot to clean up at the beginning of the third season. All intentions in season 2 were good for both Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. Their intentions were good, even though they had different methods and everything else. One of my favorite scenes from season two is the elevator scene, where there is no dialogue at all, where Johnny and Daniel are sitting in the hospital elevator and both are down and feeling responsible. The burden of these children hanging in the balance and the fact that they were wary of what happened. And I think that's a lot going on for LaRusso, as well as the family element and response to his wife, who is at the end of her rope at this point.
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He no longer has his human Yoda to go to, Miyagi-san, as I have always referred to this character with love. This is probably the lowest point he's ever been because every category - husband, parent, teacher - is at the very bottom.
As you move into season three, you can get off the ground and begin the healing process in all of these areas. And so begins the third season. First and foremost, Robby is missing. So this is an important driving force [for Daniel].
Why do you think season 3 is timely to bring back fan favorites like Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) and Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita)?
I think we'll keep the ball in the air as much as possible. We always talk about the steeds and rachels of our show. You want to get to them, but you don't want to put them together - so we keep this ball in the air all the time. [Executive Producers] Jon [Hurwitz], Josh [Heald] and Hayden [Schlossberg] do an amazing job of offering fan service and the Easter eggs, the emotion and the comedy and slowly spice up those moments that we are in .
What I love about this third season is that it expands the scope of the series and explores the origins of Miyagi-Do and Cobra Kai. When I went to Okinawa, which I never did - the second film was shot in Hawaii - I got to Okinawa with Yuji and a worn out crew and we got some nice shots. [We] also played a decent amount of other stuff in Atlanta that we could construct and create this other world.
The nice thing about it is that you pick up on the nostalgia of that story, but still take a path no one will expect, what happens to Chozen and the Daniel LaRusso characters. It's such a moment at the end of the fourth episode and in the fifth episode when they see each other and you think it's one thing and it becomes the other, and it becomes informative for LaRusso when he returns to the states to his house goes to his life, to his current rivalry with Johnny Lawrence. It informs him in a different way than you would expect.
Daniel is going to Japan with his dealership for business reasons?
Yes. On top of everything else we start the season with, he'll lose the business - or end up in a place where he'd get into trouble if he didn't sell it. And just as it happens in the Karate Kid universe, a Miyagi element from its past triggers an idea, and it's beautifully done. And he's making an attempt to come to Japan and talk to some importing companies.
While he's there, another [idea] makes him jump to Okinawa Island with the puddle. He doesn't even know what he's looking for. It is not the afterlife that takes him there, but he is in that moment of midlife crisis where everything dissolves, and this is where the magic happened in his childhood. And maybe there would be an answer. And then the Tamlyn Tomita character Kumiko becomes such a big part of it and Chozen. It takes us on a two-episode journey and informs the character and gives all people a big, fat, nostalgic hug.
Why do you think it was important for Daniel to face Chozen now, at this low point in his life?
I think that's important to the character because in The Karate Kid Part II it was a quote-unquotation fight to the death. The first time it was a tournament, the next time you're in a foreign country and only the person who lives in the end wins. The level of facing a character that seems so irredeemable in Chozen - what it does, and I have already pointed out, perhaps informs LaRusso of how he could do better with his own life, his own rivalry. the whole Cobra Kai / Miyagi-Do thing. Through this experience in Okinawa, he is informed to improve himself and to focus more on what he can do better. Not just with the rivalry of Johnny Lawrence, but also with how to get on in all aspects of your life.
LaRusso learns things about Miyagi-Do and things about Miyagi-san that he didn't know, and neither does the audience. So we're both the audience and LaRusso, learning things about Miyagi-Do and Miyagi-san that we didn't expect. That's something I asked about very early on when I was doing this show. Since there are certainly elements of this that we got to see through Johnny Lawrence's journey in seasons 1 and 2, you had to learn things about him that you didn't know, but you felt like, "Oh, we know all about Daniel LaRusso and Miyagi-san, "So that's what we've been looking for and that's what we get in season 3. It's a nice balance. Let's go - I used the word balance because I have to. We are talking about the Karate Kid universe.
Fans really want Johnny and Daniel to work together to beat Kreese this season. What can you tease about it?
Therein lies our Ross and Rachel thing that I mentioned earlier. Johnny and Daniel we love to see them have a couple of beers and be simpatico and then we love to see them by the necks too. Another thing that works so well on the show is that the audience can see the different but same elements of these guys. It's frustrating at times because you just want to put them in the same room and pour a drink and just say, "Get over it."
We definitely hear the fans loud and clear, and the show is designed to bring us to that [reconciliation]. It's important that you are always one step ahead, but at the same time keep your audience happy. It is a challenge. We have so many characters on the show and so many compelling storylines, even outside of Johnny and Daniel's old rivalry and Kreese as the key in the middle.
Yuji mentioned that you prepared especially for your fight scenes.
Yes. If I get an extra day to rehearse, I'll take it. Once you have passed that 50 mark and are approaching the 60 mark, the more samples there are for the combat material, the better. Everything just takes a lot longer. It's a lot of stretching, a lot of advil.
Cobra Kai season 3 premiered in January on Netflix
Related content:
Yuji Okumoto on Cobra Kai Season 3: "Chozen searched a lot for souls"
Tamlyn Tomita on Daniel and Kumiko's awkward reunion in the third season of Cobra Kai
Cobra Kai Season 3 Trailer: Chozen, Kumiko, and a truce between Johnny and Daniel

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