- Warning: Major spoilers below if you have not seen the full season 3 of “Cobra Kai” on Netflix.
- Creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg talk to Insider about secrets and spoilers of season 3.
- We find out how they finally got Elisabeth Shue on the show, who played Ali in “The Karate Kid.” And what their plan was if they didn’t get her.
- The single-shot fight sequence was originally supposed to be at the Miyagi-Do dojo, not the LaRusso house.
- Khalil Everage, who plays Chris on the show, did his own stunts in the fight scene.
- Fan favourites Stingray and Aisha were not in season 3 due to “a story decision.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Cobra Kai” creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg instantly saw the change of reactions when their show that looks at the characters from “The Karate Kid” movies decades later moved from YouTube to Netflix for its third season.
“A few hours after ‘Cobra Kai’ appeared on Netflix I was getting texts from friends and family talking about how good the show was. And I was like, ‘You told me that a couple of years ago,’ and then I realised they hadn’t watched the show back then,” Schlossberg said.
Though the trio knew beloved fans of “The Karate Kid” franchise were coming in impressive numbers to watch the show when it was on YouTube for its first two seasons (and paying a subscription to do so), the launch of the latest season on Netflix on January 1 completely eclipsed anything they had previously experienced when it came to reactions.
And according to Netflix, the show has been seen by more than 41 million households in its first 28 days.
Regardless if you’re a dedicated “Cobra Kai” fan or just starting to become one, it’s likely if you’re reading this that you really enjoyed the third season of the series, which continued to deliver an impressive mix of nostalgia for the fans of “The Karate Kid” with exciting new storylines focused on the kids who have been sucked into the rivalry between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
Insider had a spoiler-filled chat with creators Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg about the third season of the show in which they reveal what it was like to finally get Elisabeth Shue to return as her Ali character from the first movie, and why they hope next season isn’t the show’s last.
The tease of Elisabeth Shue’s appearance at the end of season 2 was done even though she hadn’t agreed to star in the series yet.
In the finale of season 2 of “Cobra Kai,” we watch Johnny throw his phone away in frustration following the school brawl that saw his star pupil Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) end up in the hospital at the hands of his son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan). As Johnny walks away there’s a shot of his phone and it’s revealed he received a Facebook friend request from Ali, Elisabeth Shue’s beloved character in “The Karate Kid” who was responsible for launching the rivalry between Daniel and Johnny.
Fans of the show were excited, as it seemed certain Ali would be in season 3, but behind the scenes, the creators admit Shue hadn’t agreed to be on the show yet.
“There was an open-mindedness of coming back, but it was far from firm,” Hurwitz admits. “She had voices in her ear that were encouraging her to do it, and then when she heard what we had planned for her she got excited about it.”
A big reason she agreed was because Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg were determined to right a wrong done to her character.
The creators were determined to correct a flaw in Shue’s character that was made in “The Karate Kid Part II.”
Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg put together a nostalgia-fuelled episode 9 (“Feel The Night”) in the season in which Ali, home for the holidays, goes out with Johnny to their old stomping grounds, Golf N’ Stuff.
It then leads into the next episode (“December 19”) in which the nostalgia kicks into high gear when Ali and Johnny agree to meet up at the Encino Oaks Country Club Christmas party (yes, the same setting where Daniel got spaghetti all over himself in “The Karate Kid”) and Daniel is also there.
The three catch up with Daniel’s wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler), and there the creators fill in a major hole in “The Karate Kid” mythology: why Daniel and Ali broke up.
In “The Karate Kid Part II” Daniel explains to Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) that he let Ali borrow the car that Mr. Miyagi gave him and she got into an accident. On top of that, Daniel says she had fallen in love with a football player from UCLA. So they broke up.
Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg were never satisfied with that end for Ali.
“We didn’t like that reason. Elisabeth didn’t like that reason. So we tried to think of a way to make a way that didn’t make Daniel out to be a liar but also gave Ali her own side of the story,” Schlossberg said.
So in the “December 19” episode, when the breakup topic comes up, Ali tells her side of the story. Sitting with Daniel, Johnny, and Amanda, she reveals that the UCLA player was just a friend, but Daniel thought he was more than that. And the car accident happened because Daniel never replaced the brake pads on Mr. Miyagi’s car, though she told Daniel numerous times the brakes were shot.
“Hearing what happened at the start of that movie was such a bummer for us,” Hurwitz added. “So we knew when we brought her on the show we would find a way to explain and get her side of the story.”
What would have the creators done if Shue declined to be on the show?
There was a “nuclear option,” as Heald put it, if Shue was totally against being on the show.
To tie up the Ali Facebook friend request tease at the end of season 2, the creators said in season 3 they would have had scenes in which it seemed Johnny was communicating with Ali via Facebook when in fact he was being catfished by Ali’s ex-husband.
“You would have found out that Ali’s husband got jealous and broke into her Facebook page and was catfishing Johnny,” Schlossberg said. “It was a funny concept that we didn’t take seriously.”
“Episode 9 and 10 would have been very different if that happened,” Heald added.
Thankfully, they got Shue to come on board.
Yes, those pictures of a shirtless William Zabka are real.
In episode 6 (“King Cobra”) Miguel helps Johnny with his Facebook page by posting some pictures of him. However, Johnny reveals that all he has are shirtless pictures from his youth.
Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg admit the hilarious moment came as a hat tip to Zabka’s heartthrob days when he was often seen in teen magazines like “Tiger Beat.” They went out to the actor to see if he still had some of those steamy pictures from the 1980s.
“He had some personal ones and magazine ones and we just loved the fact that he didn’t have a shirt in any of them,” Heald said. “After seeing them we wrote the line for Miguel, ‘Do you have any where you’re wearing a shirt?’ And then we found the one where he barely has one on.”
The LaRusso house single-shot fight sequence was originally to happen in Mr. Miyagi’s backyard.
Outside of the nostalgic moments in “Cobra Kai” another thing fans love about the show are its amazing fight sequences.
Like season 2, the finale in season 3 has a thrilling single-shot fight sequence between the students of Cobra Kai and Miyagi-Do.
Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg say pulling it off takes a huge amount of planning by the show’s stunt coordinator Niro Yoda (who has earned Emmy nominations for his work on the show), but an added challenge this season was the last second change of where the fight would take place.
“The original design for that scene was supposed to take place in the Miyagi-Do dojo backyard, but because of a scheduling conflict we realised we didn’t have a couple of weeks of prep, we had four days, Heald said. “So it became very accelerated and we moved the sequence to the LaRusso house.”
Despite the change in location and the short time to prepare for it, the creators say the cast and crew were still excited to try to top the school brawl “oner” in season 2.
“Everyone starts cheering when we yell ‘cut’ because everyone knows we got it right,” Heald said. “It’s like beating a video game level. I think we did the whole thing in six or seven takes.”
Khalil Everage, who plays Chris on the show, did his own stunts in the fight sequence.
Not only did the actors have to learn fight choreography during the LaRusso fight scene, but sometimes they had to take a few bumps, too.
That happened to Everage when his stunt double suffered an asthma attack after the first take of the “oner.”
“We thought we’d have to shoot the sequence later but Khalil said, ‘I can do it,’ and they put some pads on him,” Heald said.
So the moment in the “oner” where Chris is seen taking a kick to the stomach, hitting someone with a frying pan, and then is thrown across the room, that’s really him.
“When a fall like that happens on the show it’s the stunt performer, not the actor,” Heald said. “But what’s in the take is Chris. He took that fall like 7 times.”
Will we ever see Stingray and Aisha again?
One of the surprising things about season 3 is we did not see fan favourites Aisha (played by Nichole Brown) and Stingray (Paul Walter Hauser).
We last saw Aisha during the school brawl. It seemed her storyline was evolving as she was becoming a close friend of Sam LaRusso (Mary Mouser). So it was disappointing to not see her come back.
While the hilarious Stingray, who showed up in season 2, was also last seen during the brawl at the school. He was there to get a job as a security guard and ended up beating up a few of the Miyagi-Do members before walking away never to be seen again.
Heald said their absence came down to “a story decision.”
“We are always looking at this giant board of this ensemble that grows beyond our means,” he said. “Sometimes we forget we’re just a half-hour show. Without giving anything away, I can say we have a lot of love for the characters of Aisha and Stingray and we continue to talk about them. Who knows if we’ll be seeing them again.”
The creators say their planned ending for the show goes beyond season 4.
Many assume that next season would be the likely conclusion of the show as Daniel and Johnny are to take on Kreese (Martin Kove). But Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg say that everything won’t be wrapped up in just one season.
“We do have an endgame in our own head and it’s not season 4,” Heald revealed. “We have a multi-season arc to tell to get to the resolution we have always had amongst the three of us.”
We’ll see if Netflix feels the same.