Following the return of Rob Garrison as Tommy and Martin Kove as the villainous John Kreese in the first two seasons, Cobra Kai brought back even more Karate Kid favorites for season 3, which is now streaming on Netflix.
“In its first two seasons and in this season, which I’m most excited about, is that it taps into some of those things that were left dangling. And we can go back and revisit and sort of craft new ways to continue the story 35 years later,” Ralph Macchio tells ET. “It’s full of nostalgia. It’s full of heart and feels and humor and all that stuff.”
The series, which picks up with Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) as adults teaching karate to a whole new generation of teenagers as well as their own kids, sees two of Daniel’s former love interests -- Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills and Tamlyn Tomita as Kumiko -- return to the franchise.
“It’s been a highlight of doing the show,” Macchio says, adding that despite so much time between the original films and the series, “everyone comes with their A game. It really has been -- there’s such a connection because you have this history together even though there’s 30 years.”
After Lawrence’s star student, Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), is left in a precarious condition following a violent school brawl between dojos in season 2, two former enemies -- Lawrence and LaRusso -- find themselves temporarily teaming up to heal the tensions that have erupted in the Valley while Kreese continues to manipulate the young followers of Cobra Kai.
As LaRusso searches for answers and Lawrence seeks redemption, the two find themselves revisiting their past in hopes of remembering the ways of late sensei Mr. Miyagi. That eventually leads LaRusso to cross paths with Kumiko during a trip back to Japan.
“There’s a scene I have with Tamlyn, who plays Kumiko, where I say, ‘God, it’s been 30 years. It feels like five minutes.’ And that is the truth,” Macchio says. “That was an honest piece of dialogue. There’s a spirit among us, and everyone has supported it.”
First introduced in The Karate Kid Part II, LaRusso meets Kumiko in Okinawa, Japan, where he travels with Mr. Miyagi to spend the summer. There he not only falls in love with Kumiko, but LaRusso finds himself at odds with Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), who also returns for season 3.
Macchio adds that having “that Okinawa section in this season is really quite beautiful and informs the story and informs the side of LaRusso that you don’t know. And he learns something that he brings into his story and into this confrontation with Johnny Lawrence and Kreese.”
Ahead of season 3, Okumoto told Entertainment Weekly that he had hoped Cobra Kai would bring Toguchi back to the franchise. “My biggest concern, however, was how Chozen would be portrayed. And after talking with the creators of the show I thought they really had a good grasp of which direction the character should go,” he said. “So when I got the script I thought they did a terrific job with the dialogue and creating a very interesting story line for Chozen.”
While both Okumoto and Tomita’s return were teased ahead of season 3, the big surprise for fans was Shue’s reprisal of Mills, who LaRusso was attempting to reach out to on Facebook at the end of season 2.
Now married to Dr. Gregory Schwarber, an oncologist whom she met in medical school, Ali is a Denver, Colorado-based pediatric surgeon going by Dr. Mills Schwarber. She officially returns late in season 3, just in time for Christmas.
Of course, Mills’ presence sparks tension between the recently reunited LaRusso and Lawrence, who both revert to old ways in front of the girl that got away from them in the first movie. “We have a reunion of three characters that have become iconic over the last thirtysomething years,” Zabka says, joking that “it’s the Bermuda Triangle that will never cease.”
But despite the tensions that flare between LaRusso and Lawrence, Macchio says, “There’s something special about the connection.” Zabka adds that reuniting with Shue on set “was meant to be.”
Although Ali’s return is brief, it doesn’t feel like it’s the last audiences will see of her, especially since the series has already been renewed for season 4. But Zabka refuses to spill. “You'll have to see; you'll have to tune in to Netflix when that time comes,” he teases. “That's down the road.”