'Cobra Kai': Ralph Macchio and William Zabka Open up About 'Karate Kid' Rivalry and Real-Life Friendship

The Karate Kid might have given cinephiles one of the most iconic onscreen rivalries with its characters Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, but fans of the beloved pop culture staple might be surprised to learn the film’s stars are actually the best of friends.

While the two have been successfully reprising their onscreen personas in the wildly popular YouTube Original, Cobra Kai, actors Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reveal exclusively to PopCulture.com that they are more than happy to be filming together again.

“It’s been so great — Ralph and I have become good friends over the years and from the ground-up, when we first got pitched this, we’ve been in close contact since,” Zabka told PopCulture.com with a smile. “We’re both very careful and respectful of The Karate Kid and we have that shared history together.”

Zabka adds that their relationship is a rather special one, admitting that the two have a shared experience like no other.

“The two of us sharing something that only we can understand and relate to, and Martin Kove too, and the original cast,” he said. “So, to get the chance to work with them again is a sort of thrill, and to see him turn into Daniel LaRusso and when I step into Johnny, those guys still live in us and it’s happening.”

The 53-year-old actor explains that the first scene he and Macchio filmed together was when his co-star’s character, Daniel, pops into the dojo in Season 1.

“That was the first time we were on camera together as Johnny and Daniel,” Zabka said. “And when we were done, it just felt alive again — like, no time had passed at all.”

Macchio reiterates the sentiment and calls the face-off scene one of his favorites to date.

“It was the first scene we played in 30-something years, and it just instinctively had a chemistry about it that we didn’t even know we had,” Macchio told PopCulture.com. “It’s sort of like I say, lightning has struck twice [and] it’s sort of like, this project is blessed. The movie was, certainly, and so is this series.”

While the two go on to sing the praises of Cobra Kai’s young cast, led by by Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser and Tanner Buchanan, Macchio knows how die-hard Karate Kid fans are always excited about Daniel and Johnny sharing moments together.

“There is a bar that gets raised when we get together,” Macchio said of his scenes with Zabka. “Whether we’re in each other’s faces or whether we’re bobbing our heads to REO Speedwagon, it’s really entertaining to watch these two guys.”

With advertisers equally engrossed by Daniel and Johnny’s hot and cold friendship and the growing viewership, YouTube recently inked a deal with Enterprise to catapult the series to new heights and highlight the duo’s playful friendship in a commercial spot with exotic cars.

“The spot is really natural and it’s exciting because it’s the first time YouTube has partnered with somebody like this,” Zabka said of the collaboration. “It’s very much art imitating life in a way.”

Macchio adds that once the two got their elements together, they knew they wanted to make it an ad about himself and William Zabka going into Enterprise with the intentions of renting a car, and then having their onscreen personas pop out.

“As soon as they look at the cars [though], they each have to get one that’s better than the other [and] it sort of morphs into the ‘Johnny Lawrence and Danny LaRusso’ rivalry, even though it stars the Macchio and Zabka friendship,” Macchio said.

“There’s a bit of a wink of, ‘Who’s got the bigger one?’ Who’s got the bigger sound system?’ And there’s a natural rivalry that Ralph and I have just in general in real life,” Zabka laughs. “So, it’s a very natural, honest spot to do. And it landed well and it’s very fun and funny, and I’m proud of it.”

Cobra Kai is currently streaming on YouTube.

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Stay tuned to PopCulture.com for more on Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, as the two share how they keep in “karate kid” shape 35 years after the movie’s release, the real message behind Cobra Kai and much more.

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