Ralph Macchio, who plays Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid films and legacy series Cobra Kai, wasn't sold on Daniel's fate as an adult. Macchio first portrayed Daniel in 1984's The Karate Kid. In that film, the bullied teen found solace in building a relationship with his mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), as the latter taught him karate to defend himself from his tormentors, specifically Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). The subsequent films saw Daniel take on new foes with the help of his beloved mentor, ultimately always keeping balance and discipline at the heart of his karate practice (even if he occasionally lost sight of those pillars).SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
In Cobra Kai, which kicked off as a YouTube Red series in 2018, Zabka and Macchio reprise their roles thirty years later. The sequel series sees Daniel as a family man and the owner of a successful car dealership with karate-themed commercials, while Johnny deals with a miserable life and is estranged from his son. The events of The Karate Kid have shaped the trajectory of both characters' lives, as Johnny feels he is a failure due to losing a key final fight against Daniel and Daniel literally makes money off of his famous, tournament-winning kick.
Related: Cobra Kai's Johnny vs Daniel War Is Deeper Than You Think
While breaking down his iconic roles in a video for GQ, Macchio admitted that Daniel's life in Cobra Kai isn't a future he would have foreseen for the character. He gives the writers credit for creating a stirring journey for Daniel in the series, but maintains that Daniel's character seemed shaped around Johnny's more than anything. Check out his full quote below:
“Where LaRusso sat in the world was not necessarily what I would’ve written. I joke with them even to this day, our three creators, you know, I say ‘at what point did you start thinking of how does this work, what’s the honesty for Daniel LaRusso?’ You could feel that the initial concept is like, okay here’s Johnny Lawrence, how can we make his life as miserable as possible? What could we have LaRusso be doing that makes it worse for him? Make him a car dealer, make him on billboards, he’s on television commercials. So then I’m like, ‘okay what’s the honesty for LaRusso at that point?’ There’s a push and a pull there, and it was about the long game, fortunately, the series is going long. You know, I would always argue LaRusso had this great mentor, this grounded mother, would he really have gone in this direction of being a guy who wanted the camera on himself, who used his one kick to rub in the face of everyone?”
Macchio's comments echo the thoughts of some fans when Cobra Kai first aired, disappointed in the '80s hero's portrayal as an arrogant, seemingly materialistic man. However, as Macchio mentions later in the video, this is only the point at which he starts off before embarking on a spiritual journey to find balance once again. Ultimately, Daniel's story is a realistic one, a reminder that people change, especially three decades down the line. While Macchio found Daniel's storyline unrealistic when the series started out due to his mother and mentor's influence, it's true that Cobra Kai was originally conceived of and marketed as Johnny's story more than Daniel's. Therefore, Macchio's words about Daniel's story seeming more driven by what would be worse for Johnny rather than what was authentic to Daniel makes sense.
Regardless of where he started out, Daniel's trajectory over the past 5 seasons of Cobra Kai has seen him reconnect with and pay tribute to his past in order to become a man Mr. Miyagi would have been proud to know. By passing on Mr. Miyagi's teachings to his children as well as the other members of Miyagi-Do, he is able to ensure that the next generation of 'Karate Kids' has the potential to turn out even better than he did. Season 5 of Cobra Kai was released recently on Netflix, and with some scenes of season 6 already filmed, the future looks bright for the series.