'Karate Kid' Star Ralph Macchio Explains How 'Cobra Kai' Responds to Social Media Bullying

Ralph Macchio reprised his beloved Karate Kid character, Daniel Larusso, in the YouTube Red Original series Cobra Kai.

Daniel and his nemesis, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), return to the small screen as adults. In 1984's Karate Kid, their rivalry began when Johnny bullied "new kid" Daniel at school. Despite suffering an injury to his leg, Daniel famously beats Johnny at the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament. As the YouTube series shows, their decades-old feud reignites after Johnny reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. Season 1 of the half-hour comedy is comprised of 10 episodes.

There were multiple opportunities for Macchio to revive his character, but he signed on to Cobra Kai because the series deals with bullying in a modern way. When Daniel was being tormented by Johnny and his goons, his mom knew he was being bullied because of his black eye. But in 2018, bullying doesn't leave a physical mark. Online harassment through social media platforms and texting inflicts internal damage, making it harder to spot.

"Themes of bullying are still relevant to all of us, [though] they've changed with technology," Macchio, 56, told Newsweek. "We dealt with that in the original Karate Kid film, and we deal with that, in a way, in Cobra Kai with how a younger generation deals with a very serious issue and how to navigate adolescence."

The nuanced way the creators approached bullying is one of the reasons Macchio decided to sign on to the Karate Kid spinoff. "It was something I said no to for 30 years. I was not pitched something that was as well-thought-out and presented as this was," he said.

"Jon [Hurwitz], Josh [Heald] and Hayden [Schlossberg]—our three creators—are the biggest Karate Kid fanboys ever. It's like Star Wars to them," Macchio continued. "They know every frame and syllable of the films. They are the right guys to do this. They had a smart, fresh [and] relevant way of getting into that Karate Kid universe 30 years later."

Tapping into nostalgia has generated big bucks for television. Netflix's Fuller House, the CW's 90210 and NBC's Will & Grace saw success in their rebirths. In March, Roseanne scored a Season 2 pick up on ABC after holding steady ratings among the 18 to 19 demographic.

YouTube outbid Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and AMC to secure the rights to the Karate Kid franchise in television form. Macchio argued the video-sharing service is the best platform for the reboot because "nobody really gets more eyeballs than YouTube every day."

It's not the first time Macchio and Zabka reunited since Karate Kid. They worked together on How I Met Your Mother in 2013 to play exaggerated versions of themselves. "It's so surreal for both of us [working together again]," Macchio told Newsweek. "[We're] kind of giddy about it, but we also take it very seriously as far as protecting our characters and making sure that we feel we're being honest to them as we were 34 years ago."

"When Daniel and Johnny cross each other's paths, the humor comes in the fact that they do still live the high school rivalry. It's really entertaining and enjoyable to see," he said.

Aside from Cobra Kai, Macchio had a two-episode guest starring stint on the current season of Kevin Can Wait. He's currently filming Season 2 of HBO's The Deuce, alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco, (who was accused of sexual misconduct by five women in January.)

"I just had two scenes with Franco the other day...he's the ultimate," Macchio said. "He's got 50 things going on at once at all times. I don't know him very well, but he's been a pure gentleman. Maggie Gyllenhaal: She's fearless. She's spectacular."

YouTube Red is partnering with Fathom Events to bring a sneak peek of Cobra Kai ahead of its release and a screening of the original film at theaters nationwide Wednesday. Cobra Kai hits YouTube Red May 2.

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Actors Ralph Macchio (R) and William Zabka are pictured in a still for YouTube Red's Origial series "Cobra Kai." The show, based off the "Karate Kid," explores the "Karate Kid" universe 34 years after the first film debuted in 1984. YouTube Red