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It’s a good rule of thumb that if you see Netflix boss Ted Sarandos whip out his phone and press record, a worthy spectacle is about to unfold. That’s exactly what happened Wednesday night on the expansive lawn of L.A. State Historic Park in Downtown Los Angeles at precisely 7:30 p.m. when a pair of headlights attached to the Eagle Fang Karate minivan lit up a dirt path in front of the red carpet for the streamer’s season five premiere of Cobra Kai.
As the green ride rolled up in front of a crush of press and a gaggle of enthusiastic fans (many decked out in Cobra Kai gear), a pair of sparkler fountains burst into the air. With music blaring from DJ Miss Ninja, franchise stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka (who was driving), jumped out to receive a rock star-worthy welcome. Joined by global TV chief Bela Bajaria, Sarandos captured the entire scene and flashed a smile when he later congratulated the stars on their biggest event to date.
“It’s the greatest,” Jon Hurwitz told The Hollywood Reporter of the scene while flanked by co-creators Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald. “Anytime you see those guys together in public, it’s a spectacle because you’re seeing Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. You’re not seeing Ralph and Billy in that moment. It’s amazing for the fans, and it’s amazing for everybody who has been working on this show for 50 episodes to have a moment like this where they can arrive to an event and really soak it all in.”
There was a lot of soaking going on during the sweaty L.A. evening with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees. The entire Cobra Kai clan walked the red carpet and many easily forgave the heat and humidity in favor of celebrating the occasion that also featured an epic spread in partnership with Street Food Cinema complete with food trucks and an outdoor screening with hundreds of fans and VIP insiders.
Xolo Maridueña was pinching himself. “This is the biggest venue we’ve ever been at, and let me tell you, if you look over there at that hill, that’s my old school,” he explained while pointing out Cathedral High School. “I was standing in front of that school when I found out that I got the part for Cobra Kai. [Co-creators Jon, Hayden and Josh] called me when I got out of class to tell me I got the part and I was flipping out. It’s very surreal to be here tonight. It feels very full circle.”
Festivities aside, attention was paid to the plot of the new batch of episodes that debut Sept. 9. Season five picks up after the shocking results of the All Valley Tournament. Terry Silver is expanding his Cobra Kai empire and trying to make his “No Mercy” style of karate the only game in town. With Kreese behind bars and Johnny Lawrence setting karate aside to focus on repairing the damage he’s caused, Daniel LaRusso must call on an old friend for help. THR asked Cobra Kai talent to tease what’s to come for their characters.
Ralph Macchio (Daniel LaRusso): “For me, it’s the biggest arc that I’ve had in the entire series because, you know, Daniel is the only one who truly knows the insanity of Terry Silver. So, he winds up looking like a crazy person and loses a grip on everything in his life to a point where he has to hit rock bottom and then re-find his balance. It’s exciting. The second half of the season really starts to build and build for the fandom.”
Hayden Schlossberg (co-creator, executive producer): “This is one of those seasons where things get so crazy. As we joke, it’s a karate soap opera but, now that we’re in season five, the show is getting into some life or death situations. Major events happen, and if you’ve been following the action the whole way through, you’ll come to see that this is a game changer season.”
Martin Kove (John Kreese): “Season five is huge. Think about it with this comparison: Lord of the Rings was a good movie, and by the time you get to The Return of the King, it’s a perfect movie. We were good in the first couple of seasons but by season four and now with season five, it’s so rich. People are reading so much into the stories. Kids are watching the show, parents are watching the show, and it has become a family experience. It’s become The Ed Sullivan Show. There’s something for everybody, and that’s why it’s a phenomenon. The entire family can gather around the TV and watch the show. The bottom line is, the writing is brilliant.
“For my character, the world is his oyster right now. He’s out [of prison], and there are people to get even with. So, obviously Terry Silver has to have his head cut off. Ralph, I don’t care about because Ralph deceived me in jail. It’s interesting how I deal with Billy because the only thing John Kreese loves as almost as much as Cobra Kai — the values, the integrity — is Johnny Lawrence. And yet, Johnny Lawrence violated him. He’s third on the list of revenge. I like playing vulnerable and I like playing highly textured, emotional situations. My moments with Tory [Peyton List], I love that more than playing the tough guy like I did in Karate Kid one. I didn’t sign up for this show only to do tough guy.”
Xolo Maridueña (Miguel Diaz): “Miguel has more questions than answers at this point. The hole that Johnny filled with his fatherly love and the relationship that he granted Miguel had a few flaws. I think there were a few things that maybe they hadn’t discussed so Miguel, right now, is at a crossroads. He wants to do what he feels is right. For the longest time, that was karate, and now it’s something new. He’s making a leap of faith. Johnny helped him, in a way, gather the confidence he needed to do that.”
Jacob Bertrand (Eli “Hawk” Moskowitz): “Hawk is feeling super confident, maybe a little overconfident since he won the tournament. He’s due to be humbled, but he’s grown a lot. This season, he shows just how much he’s grown.”
Tanner Buchanan (Robby Keene): “I basically say that he’s starting back at zero. He thought he knew what was right before, but now, he’s trying to better himself. He’s gaining an understanding of where he screwed up, and he wants to try and make that better. He finally knows what he has to do. This season, it just comes down to whether or not he will be able to execute that.”
Mary Mouser (Samantha LaRusso): “Sam’s journey in season five is all about self-reflection. She’s been constantly switching where she puts her energy and focus while trying to help in places that she feels is best for the greater good. I think, maybe, she’s realizing at this point that she has to look inward and help herself first before she’s able to help anybody else. That’s a good starting point for her.”
Griffin Santopietro (Anthony LaRusso): “You get to see Anthony grow a lot in who he is and the type of person he wants to be. For everything this season, I would just say the stakes are raised by a hundred.”
Dallas Dupree Young (Kenny Payne): “You see Kenny continue to grow as a mentee under Terry Silver’s leadership. You see him grow as a fierce competitor and a fierce guy. For everyone this season, the stakes are higher than ever. You’ll see characters evolve and grow as their values are tested. This is a very important season right here.”
Gianni Decenzo (Demetri Alexopoulos): “We see a lot of Demetri trying to figure out this new environment that he’s in. I don’t wanna spoil too much, but he’s got the girl of his dreams, he’s getting better at karate, and you’ll get to see what journey this guy goes on.”
Thomas Ian Griffith (Terry Silver): “Well, it’s so much fun because he gets a take over the world. Being betrayed in season four, what that did to him is lead him to say to himself, ‘Now, I have to live that dream, and I have to see it through.’ He’s so committed to putting [karate dojos] everywhere. And then you see him slowly falter here and there, and the demon is slowly tapped into. I think it’s a great journey, and there’s a great end to the season, too, from where he starts to where he ends up. It’s Shakespearean. The writers did an amazing job, and I am honored to be a part of it.”
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