The Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio discusses how he makes sure the spirit of Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi is felt throughout the franchise’s sequel series Cobra Kai. Ever since the debut of Cobra Kai back in 2018, multiple actors from the original films have returned to reprise each of their respective characters, led by Macchio himself as Daniel LaRusso alongside William Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence. Unfortunately, this was not the case for one of Karate Kid‘s most prominent figures and the mentor to Macchio’s character, Mr. Miyagi, due to Morita’s tragic passing in 2005.
However, even though Mr. Miyagi does not appear in Cobra Kai himself, his presence is still felt through the series as Daniel opens his dojo, Miyagi-Do Karate, and teaches his students the same lessons and values that Mr. Miyagi taught him. The show also alludes to the fact that during the time between the original films and the start of Cobra Kai, Mr. Miyagi played a large role in Daniel’s family life, having already made an impact on his wife and kids by the time audiences meet them. Additionally, in Cobra Kai season 3, Daniel revisits Mr. Miyagi’s hometown in Okinawa as he did back in The Karate Kid Part II, learning more about Mr. Miyagi and his family history in the process. The show also makes use of archival footage from previous films, allowing newer audiences to see Mr. Miyagi for themselves as viewers would have back when the Karate Kid movies were released.
In an interview with Screen Rant about his new memoir, Waxing On: The Karate Kid And Me, Macchio talks about why it is important for him to make sure that Cobra Kai honors Morita’s character. He goes on to discuss the significance of Mr. Miyagi in the series. Check out the full quote below:
“I think Pat would have loved [Cobra Kai]. I think if he was here, Cobra Kai would be different. It would have to be. But it was important to me that Miyagi, his character, was laced throughout the storytelling in Cobra Kai. The writers of the show felt that way similarly.
“His presence is felt. And it’s felt by the other actors. I write about this in the chapter, “Soulful Magic,” which is kind of the Pat Morita chapter, even though he’s peppered throughout the entire journey. Actors like Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto would come back as Kumiko and Chozen, and when we play scenes, we would feel [like Pat] was there on the day. Just as his spirit has blessed this Cobra Kai journey. Listen, without Mr. Miyagi and Pat Morita’s performance, there is no Cobra Kai series because there would not be The Karate Kid movie as it came to be.”
How Cobra Kai Honors Mr. Miyagi’s Legacy
Macchio mentions how it was important for Miyagi to be laced into Cobra Kai‘s story, which has arguably allowed Miyagi to feel like a character on the show himself. It appears that Macchio shared this mindset with the writers of the show, as well as the other actors, namely Tamlyn Tomita and Yuji Okumoto who reprise their roles as Kumiko and Chozen respectively, two characters who play a part in Miyagi’s history. However, while the presence of Morita is felt among the actors, this sentiment is reflected in the performances as well. Miyagi’s legacy lives among the characters when they interact with each other, particularly with Daniel and Chozen who are both students of Miyagi’s teachings. Daniel and the other Cobra Kai characters frequently refer to how they would not be where they are without Miyagi and likewise, Macchio states that the franchise would not be where it is without Morita.
The impact that The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai has managed to have on multiple generations is a testament to the franchise’s ability to resonate with its older audiences while finding ways to relate to its younger fans. Despite the character of Mr. Miyagi not appearing on-screen since 1994, the fact he still feels just as relevant to Cobra Kai now reflects Macchio and the writers’ abilities to instill his spirit into the show. Wherever the franchise decides to go moving forward, it is clear that the characters will always be where they are because of Mr. Miyagi.
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