Now that you’ve finished binge-watching season 2 of Cobra Kai on YouTube — you have finished, right? If not, stop reading now! — there’s clearly a lot to talk about. Has Johnny really lost Cobra Kai for good? Will Miguel be okay? Is Ali coming back? And did Tootie really show up in episode 4, or am I having a stroke? Fortunately, EW reached Cobra Kai creators/executive producers Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg, and Josh Heald while they were stuck in New York City traffic and therefore could not dodge our many, many questions about season 2 — and where the show goes from here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We’ve got to start with that amazing finale — especially the 10-minute karate showdown in the high school. Going into this season, did you always know the big finale showpiece would not be a tournament, and how did you decide to set it in the halls of a high school?
JON HURWITZ: Going into this season, we knew for sure that we did not want to end with another tournament. We don’t want to have every season end the same way, where you’re just going, “Okay, who’s going to be fighting in the tournament against each other?” We were interested in expanding on the conflict between the younger cast and creating new conflicts in the younger cast and loved the idea of it all exploding in a big, no-holds-barred kind of fight. And we figured what better way to end our cruel summer than on the first day of school and have something get out of hand there. We’re blown away with the work that our young cast put in. None of these kids knew karate entering the series, and they’ve learned over the course of the two seasons, and our stunt coordinators, Hiro Koda and Jahnel Curfman, helped us craft an amazing fight off of the weaving story lines that we created.
How long did the fight take to film?
HAYDEN SCHLOSSBERG: We filmed it in about two days at the school that we shot at. We were at the school for a total of four days, and half of it was all non-fighting stuff. The other two days were all about choreography, and we had to prepare as much as we can while still shooting a bunch of other episodes. That’s the challenge with this show: We don’t have the time that the original Karate Kid had to get everybody ready for this, so it just makes the job of the stunt coordinators that much more difficult. And that’s why we’re so impressed with what they were able to do.
Did anyone get hurt during the filming?
JOSH HEALD: It’s a miracle that nobody got more than a scrape or a bruise. Mary Mouser [who plays Sam LaRusso] actually banged up her hand slightly during one of the stunts. We were able to pull her out — unfortunately she was a little bit bruised on her hand; fortunately, we had 9 million other pieces of the fight to film, so production didn’t completely shut down. We were able to bandage her up, she wanted to be back in there. Eagle-eyed viewers will maybe be able to hunt around that fight and see a little bit of tape on a finger or two. But with the amount of the choreography, and there were a lot of Texas switches — where one stunt person is coming in and exchanging places with an actor — with the amount of that happening… the fact that nobody got hurt is amazing. Once again that’s just a testament to the Steadicam operator, who managed not to run over the actors.
Going back to the beginning of the season, there were all these hints along the way that Kreese wasn’t really a changed man, but Johnny doesn’t realize it until it’s too late. Was there ever any point in the plotting where you considered having Kreese actually reform?
HURWITZ: In our minds, John Kreese truly does love Johnny Lawrence and believes in him, but he believes in Cobra Kai first and foremost, and that’s formed through his experiences in the past — the things that he saw, his experiences in the Vietnam War have framed his mindset and led to him teaching “strike first, strike hard, no mercy.” So when he’s coming back to the dojo he probably has some intent on being a big force in that dojo again, but I think he’s hopeful that he and Johnny together can co-exist and make this work. I think he’s disheartened over the course of the season to see that in his mind Johnny Lawrence has lost his way, and we truly believe that he believes that Johnny one day will thank him for this. That’s a layer to Kreese that we believe is there, despite how menacing and evil he may seem at times. In his heart he believes that he is doing what is right and teaching his students what he thinks they need to learn to survive in the world.
At one point this season, Daniel says Kreese faked his death twice… but I thought he only faked it once, in The Karate Kid Part III?
SCHLOSSBERG: I think the two times he’s referring to are once in Karate Kid III, where supposedly he’s dead and it turns out it was just a ruse, and then in Cobra Kai season 1, Johnny says, “John Kreese is dead” — and Johnny’s saying that because he assumes he dead. But from Daniel’s perspective, that’s just another story about John Kreese being dead that’s not true. If anyone’s skeptical about John Kreese being dead, it’s Daniel LaRusso.
We of course have to talk about Johnny’s reunion of the original Cobra Kais —Tommy, Bobby, and Jimmy — in episode 6. When did you start planning this, and how did it come together?
HEALD: We talked about that in the earliest talks we had amongst the three of us breaking story for season 2. And in that episode we had large parts of it worked out: We knew how it was going to end, we knew there was going to be some sort of karate in there, and we really wanted to bring those guys in in such a way that would inform the story that Johnny was dealing with at the time.… We reached out to those guys, and getting to work with them on this show was yet another dream come true for us. And Rob Garrison, Ron Thomas, Tony O’Dell — they were all totally game. They were thrilled to get the chance to put on the masks of these characters again, to have a little bit more depth to them, more maturity, with time and resentment added to what happened the last time we saw them, in the parking lot at the beginning of Karate Kid II. It was just another layer to this show — all of a sudden, you’re in the woods with a bunch of grown men and you’re crying. [Laughs]
We learn Dutch is in jail, so he’s not at the reunion — was Chad McQueen unavailable?
HEALD: We actually talked to Chad. Schedules were such that it wasn’t feasible for him to join us this time around, but we certainly mentioned his character being alive and in a very particular place on purpose. We could perhaps visit that story another time.
We also need to discuss the amazing Kim Fields cameo in episode 4, as Aisha’s mom. How did this come about, and will she be on future episodes?
HURWITZ: Last season Kim on Twitter was raving about Cobra Kai. She absolutely loved the show, and she and I started a little bit of a dialogue, and I just knew what a passionate fan she was of the series. So when we were thinking about season 2, we knew that we wanted to introduce Aisha’s mother in this one episode, and immediately we thought, we shoot this show in Atlanta, she lives in Atlanta, wouldn’t it be great if she could pop on over and do a day on the show? We reached out to her and she was floored with the potential to do it.… She lit up the room everywhere she was.
SCHLOSSBERG: There’s a lot of actors that we know that we wouldn’t put in Cobra Kai because they might take you out of the reality of this Valley world that we’re creating, but she just kind of fit that world. She’s obviously someone that we fell in love with back in the ’80s, with the character Tootie [on Facts of Life]. It had that kind of fun, nostalgic vibe that all the characters to the show have.… Now she’s a character in the universe.
Johnny made some impressive technical leaps this season, like getting a smartphone and buying a computer. Of course, his first internet search is “hot babes” — which is very on-brand. Did you consider any other search terms?
HEALD: It was always “hot babes.” We knew that once Johnny was in that office alone and had access to that computer, he became the 13-year-old boy again. But there was also something so PG-13 about his approach to the internet that was also — it was that blend of naiveté and his ultimate list of what he’s looking for online, which is Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Iron Eagle, and hot babes. Some of it is very surface-level, but these are things that are very meaningful to him. He grew up in an era where he was fortunate to date a lot of hot babes, but he also really loves movies like Over the Top and Iron Eagle. So we just kind of dug as deep as we could with what we think we know about Johnny at that point, and what his version of reading the encyclopedia would be like.
There are several mentions of Ali this season — and of course the season ends with the shot of Johnny’s phone and the notification that Ali sent him a friend request. Please tell me you’ve talked to Elisabeth Shue and that she’s signed on for season 3.
SCHLOSSBERG: [Laughs] We don’t want to spoil or confirm or deny anything when it comes to the characters and this show, because we want it to be a fun surprise. We obviously know how important the Ali character is to this universe. She sets up the rivalry, but at the same time there’s a story that needs to be told. Whether or not she’s in season 3, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that just because it ended that way that [she will be]. We want to leave people with the question mark.
Fair enough. Here’s a question you definitely can answer, though: Miguel is going to be fine, right? Right???
HURWITZ: [Laughs] We can’t tell you specifically what’s going to be happening with Miguel next season. We can say that we’re hopeful that Xolo [Maridueña] returns to the series.
HEALD: We can say that he’ll be back.
HURWITZ: It didn’t look good, what happened to him. We’re pretty disturbed like everyone else right now. Obviously, the character’s future hangs in the balance, and we’ll see where we go with that. But it was really about, for both and Daniel this season, they both really had good intentions. They both were trying to be good mentors to their students, and sometimes in life when you’re trying to do right, things don’t always work out. If we’re able to have a third season and continue this show, we’d probably explore how they and the students respond to the events of the finale.
YouTube hasn’t officially greenlit Cobra Kai for season 3, but how are you guys feeling about the show’s chances?
HEALD: We feel optimistic. We feel very good about the launch of season 2.… It’s nice when we’re finally able to share the show with people and not worry about spoilers and let people enjoy what we’ve labored over. So we’re just enjoying the launch right now, and if and when season 3 is picked up, we are going to get right back into it.
Now that Kreese has taken over Cobra Kai, Johnny and Daniel have a common enemy. If season 3 happens, will they team up to take Kreese down?
SCHLOSSBERG: We see lots of fan theories and comments about people wanting Johnny and Daniel to team up. We’re building this connection between the two of them as the seasons go along, and you see the potential for them to come together — but they also have two rival philosophies, a deep backstory with this grudge between the two of them, and also the events that happen in the finale would make it very difficult for them to work together. Right now the question is, Kreese is going to keep running the dojo, and they’re going to have to figure out something [to stop him]. If they come together, it has to be in a way that is true to who they are, and who they are at their core are rivals. So one of them is going to have to switch their allegiances, and that may be a tough thing.
Well, we know that Johnny and Daniel can agree on one thing: Restaurant servers should write down your order, or they’ll screw it up.
HEALD: That’s one of my biggest pet peeves in the world. There’s no room for error at the moment that you don’t write it down. I think the truth of the matter is it’s a universal gripe that everyone shares, so we figured, what’s some common ground [for Johnny and Daniel]? There’s not one person who’s ever been at a restaurant who’s felt comfortable when the server doesn’t write things down.… This Karate Kid thing is nonsense to us — it’s all been a delivery device to get to this moment and have this commentary about servers. [Laughs]
Anything else you can tease for season 3?
SCHLOSSBERG: Despite the fact that we ended in this really dark way, every season we’re trying to make a show that’s just entertaining. Going into season 3, it’s about how do we raise the stakes while keeping the fun? Even though things ended in a tragic way, sometimes tragedy breeds comedy, and vice versa. We have a lot of confidence that there’s a lot of fun left to be had.
HEALD: If season 1 is defined thematically as redemption and reminders of the past, and season 2 is largely about rivalry and revenge — and now we’ve torn everything down to a degree, season 3 has one way to go, and it’s up. So it’s rebirth and rebuilding.
How many more seasons do you imagine this going?
SCHLOSSBERG: We don’t want to put a limit to the fun that we’re having right now. We do have an end in mind — we just think about it in terms of where we want these characters to end up being. We can’t guarantee a happy end, but we can guarantee a fulfilling end that fans will like. I think that how long that is over the course of seasons, part of that is about how long are we engaged and having fun making this show? I could say right now, we’re living the dream — this is the highest-end fan fiction that there is, and we’re loving it. We’re hoping that it goes on for a while.
Cobra Kai season 2 is now streaming on YouTube Premium.