Fans of The Karate Kid are surely well aware of the television series Cobra Kai, which serves as a sequel to the Karate Kid films. The series first launched on YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) in 2018, releasing two seasons before being acquired by Netflix in June 2020, per The Hollywood Reporter. Cobra Kai brings back two iconic characters from The Karate Kid: Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio).
According to IndieWire, Cobra Kai manages to reunite the rivals decades later while “recapturing the energy and heart of ’80s underdog cinema.” That’s certainly an impressive feat! On screen, it seems that Zabka and Macchio are forever pitted against each other. They were rivals in The Karate Kid and they continue to be rivals in Cobra Kai. But off screen, what’s the relationship like between the two actors? Does the rivalry continue? Keep reading to find out.
William Zabka and Ralph Macchio have a 'shared history'
While William Zabka and Ralph Macchio might be pros at playing rivals on screen — both in The Karate Kid and in Cobra Kai – the pair are absolute pals IRL. In a 2019 interview with PopCulture.com, Zabka said of his co-star: “It’s been so great — Ralph and I have become good friends over the years and from the ground-up, when we first got pitched this, we’ve been in close contact since.” He added: “We’re both very careful and respectful of The Karate Kid and we have that shared history together.”
Zabka also spoke about how unique it was filming such an iconic piece of film culture and the pressure to continue the feat. “The two of us [share] something that only we can understand and relate to.” Touching on the original cast and watching Macchio get in character again, Zabka added: ” … [T]o get the chance to work with them again is a sort of thrill, and to see [Macchio] turn into Daniel LaRusso and when I step into Johnny, those guys still live in us and it’s happening.”
Are Zabka and Macchio just pals because they reunited for Cobra Kai? Not a bit. Back in 2014, Zabka spoke with USA Today Sports for the 30th anniversary of The Karate Kid and said, “The guys that played all the Cobra Kais are some of my best friends.” So what does Macchio have to say about it all?
Ralph Macchio says he and William Zabka have chemistry
It’s not just William Zabka who’s having a BFF moment. In addition to being in awe of the on screen rivalry continuing from The Karate Kid to Cobra Kai, Ralph Macchio also marvels at the off-screen friendship. Speaking about their first scene for Cobra Kai, Macchio told PopCulture.com: “It was the first scene we played in 30-something years, and it just instinctively had a chemistry about it that we didn’t even know we had.” Macchio added: “It’s sort of like I say, lightning has struck twice [and] it’s sort of like, this project is blessed. The movie was, certainly, and so is this series.”
Aside from working together on screen, the two have even gone into branding together. According to Variety, YouTube launched a partnership with car rental company Enterprise, which featured Macchio and Zabka going into rivalry-mode while renting cars. The commercial functioned as both an ad for the car company as well as a promotion for the second season of Cobra Kai.
Macchio explained to PopCulture.com how even the ad plays on their rivalry while showing their friendship: “As soon as they look at the cars [though], they each have to get one that’s better than the other [and] it sort of morphs into the ‘Johnny Lawrence and Danny LaRusso’ rivalry, even though it stars the Macchio and Zabka friendship.”
So rest assured. While Macchio and Zabka might slay as on screen enemies, they’re just two best friends boasting some serious acting chops.
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