Over 35 years after the original Karate Kid film became a box office hit, stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka have reunited with Elisabeth Shue on the set of the spinoff series Cobra Kai. Following in the footsteps of Martin Kove as John Kreese and Rob Garrison as Tommy, Shue returns to the franchise as Ali Mills in season 3, which premiered on Netflix on New Year’s Day. Only ET was on set with the cast as they picked up where things left off three decades ago.
“It’s like the movie never stopped,” Shue says of acting opposite Macchio and Zabka again. “Especially acting with them. It just felt like our chemistry and our connections were exactly the same as they were.”
In the original movie, Shue played a high school cheerleader (“Ali with an I”) who befriends new student Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) much to the chagrin of ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence (Zabka). However, she ends up breaking both their hearts before attending UCLA and then medical school to become a pediatric surgeon. In the series, it’s revealed that she lives in Denver, Colorado, where she’s now in the process of getting divorced from her husband, Dr. Gregory Schwarber, an oncologist she met in medical school.
In season 3 of Cobra Kai, Ali makes an unexpected return during Christmas — and quickly shakes things up for both Johnny and Daniel. “We have a reunion of three characters that have become iconic over the last thirty-something years,” Zabka says, joking that “it’s the Bermuda Triangle that will never cease.”
Shue adds, “The one thing that’s so sweet is to see Daniel and Johnny still fighting it out. They really haven’t evolved much.” But despite the tensions that flare up, “There’s something special about the connection,” Macchio says.
But no matter how much things change — or don’t — for Daniel and Johnny, Shue was “really excited” about how the franchise has transformed from film to TV. “I was just so impressed with how they handled taking something that’s so beloved and then be able to make it into something equally interesting and complicated and funny and heartwarming,” the actress says.
The other thing that makes the series so great is how it’s able to balance the nostalgia for the original with a new generation of characters. “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,” Macchio says.
In addition to Shue, Karate Kid Part II stars Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto also return as Kumiko and Chozen Toguchi, respectively. When it comes to reuniting with Tomita, Macchio says it felt like no time had gone by. “And that is the truth,” he adds.
“I think it’s very special for all of us to see each other again because I think it makes you realize how much you’ve grown in a lot of ways, and also how you’re still the same,” Shue says.
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 neither Shue nor Zabka refuse to spill. “You’ll have to see; you’ll have to tune in to Netflix when that time comes,” he teases, with the actress adding, “Never say never.”
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