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Cobra Kai showrunner on how the Netflix series will “honour Mr. Miyagi’s spirit” in season 3

Cobra Kai season 3 exclusive image
(Image credit: Netflix)

When Ralph Macchio was first approached about returning as his Karate Kid character, Daniel LaRusso, he was nervous. “It always was easier and less risky to not try to go back to that well again, because we didn’t want to taint the legacy," he tells Total Film in the latest issue of the magazine. 

Part of the concern was returning to play LaRusso without his sensei, Mr. Miyagi, following the death of actor Pat Morita in 2005. But spiritually, Miyagi looms large over Cobra Kai, the follow-up series that was – despite Macchio's nerves – eventually made for YouTube Red, and later bought by Netflix. Daniel himself has become sensei to the next generation of Miyagi-Do students, including his own daughter, Sam (Mary Mouser) and Lawrence’s estranged son Robby (Tanner Buchanan). 

“It’s a constant struggle for [Daniel] to live up to the legacy of his beloved father figure,” co-showrunner Jon Hurwitz explains. “We’re constantly looking for ways to honour Pat Morita’s legacy and make it feel like he’s a part of the series, because he’s such an important part of the Karate Kid universe.”

The upcoming Cobra Kai season 3 – and you can see an exclusive image from the new season above – is set to “honour Mr. Miyagi’s spirit and Pat Morita’s performance in a whole new way”, says Hurwitz, as Daniel-san makes a soul- searching pilgrimage to Miyagi’s homeland of Okinawa for the first time since 1986. “One of the coolest things about season 3 is the Okinawa storyline, and being able to revisit The Karate Kid Part II, which was actually the most successful of all the three original Karate Kid movies,” fellow showrunner Hayden Schlossberg points out. “There’s nostalgia there, but there is also a sense of expanding the world of the TV show.”

Though Hawaii doubled for Okinawa in Part II, Macchio and the Cobra Kai crew travelled to the real deal “for what was essentially a long weekend” to film scenes that “dive into the origins of Miyagi-Do”, according to Macchio; while back in California, “you dive into the origins of where Cobra Kai originated for John Kreese’s backstory”. All tremendously exciting for fans of the films, like Hurwitz and Schlossberg, who consider The Karate Kid their “Star Wars, to a large degree”.

Cobra Kai season 3 launches on Netflix on January 8. For much more from the team behind Cobra Kai, pick up a copy of the new issue of Total Film magazine when it hits shelves real and digital this Friday, December 11. Check out the new covers of Total Film below: the one on the right is on its way to subscribers right now.

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(Image credit: Total Film)
Jack Shepherd

I'm the Entertainment Editor over here at GamesRadar+, bringing you all the latest movie and TV news, reviews, and features, plus I look after the Total Film and SFX sections and socials. I used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film