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William Zabka's Very First Question When Cobra Kai Was Pitched To Him

To say the success of "Cobra Kai" has been surprising would be an understatement. The "Karate Kid" franchise has certainly been mined over the years for plenty of material, including four films, a short-lived animated series, and a remake, but the idea that the world could be revived with its original stars in 2018 and win over fans seemed like a long shot. The show, however, has unquestionably won plenty of praise from critics and fans (per Rotten Tomatoes). It even survived an original cancellation by YouTube, where it still performed well, and was revived by Netflix.

The main narrative twist of the show was refocusing on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), the original antagonist for Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). Picking up on Lawrence as a struggling middle-aged man, literally teased by billboards of a successful LaRusso, the series has since reintroduced numerous characters from the original franchise while bringing younger generations into the world of these two original nemeses. 

Zabka had his fair share of concerns when the reboot from creators and comedy veterans Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg was pitched to him. And he had one specific question he needed answered before he was sold on revisiting Lawrence decades later. 

William Zabka needed to know the tone

Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg each have plenty of comedy pictures in their backgrounds, from "American Reunion" to "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle." This was partly what led to William Zabka needing to be sold on the tone of "Cobra Kai." Zabka described his caution before saying yes to the series in a 2021 interview, though he added that he was quickly sold on the project. "I wouldn't say doubt, but that was my first question when they pitched me this show. Knowing where they were going with it and hearing how it was going to be comedic and this and that, I said, 'What's the tone?'" the actor explained (via Men's Health). 

Zabka said in the same interview that he was completely sold and trusting of his creators after seeing the results of the first season. "After watching the first season, I was like, 'Okay, you guys fully nailed it. You got the balance right between the comedy and the heart and the action and the nostalgia.' I love those guys," he said. With Zabka's initial hesitation to return, it should come as no surprise that the main face of the franchise, Ralph Macchio, also needed some convincing to return to the franchise that, for better or worse, defined his career. 

Ralph Macchio was sold on the new angle of Cobra Kai

Ralph Macchio starred in three "Karate Kid" movies, but he's been open about the negative impact they temporarily had on his career. In a 2021 interview, Macchio revealed that even the hit 1992 comedy "My Cousin Vinny" was difficult to get because he was typecast in his "Karate Kid" role. "[The studio] told Jonathan Lynn, who was the director, basically, 'He's the Karate Kid, we don't want him, you know ... you're just going to see that,'" the actor told Justin Long on the "Life Is Short" podcast (per Heavy). 

Macchio has also expressed regret over "The Karate Kid: Part III," his last outing with the franchise before "Cobra Kai." "I was not a fan of how the 'Karate Kid III' came out. I felt the story was only repeating itself and was not character forwarding for the end of LaRusso," Macchio said (per The Hollywood Reporter). 

The creators' focus on the Lawrence character was what convinced him to jump back into the franchise that had frozen job opportunities and handed him an unimpressive sequel. "These guys really had a very well-thought-out pitch by coming in through the eyes of Johnny Lawrence — basically turning the prism view in the universe," he said in 2019 (via Business Insider). He also revealed he'd previously said no to a cameo in the 2010 "Karate Kid" remake as well as a bizarre Daniel LaRusso and Rocky Balboa team-up over the years.