When Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) reopened Cobra Kai, the world of The Karate Kid got a lot bigger. Johnny taught a new generation of high schoolers, but he was closest with Miguel (Xolo Mariduena). Miguel actually won the All Valley Karate Tournament, the same one that Johnny lost to Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), and he did it by fighting dirty.
Cobra Kai is back for a second season to deal with the fallout of the tournament, and the return of John Kreese (Martin Kove). Can Johnny teach these kids right with Kreese around? I was at a roundtable with Mariduena at WonderCon last month to discuss Cobra Kai. Season two is now streaming on YouTube Premium.
FF: People have really responded to Miguel in Cobra Kai. What do you think they’re responding to?
Xolo Mariduena: I think, and this goes for all of the young adults on the show, I think everyone can relate to them in some way or another. Hawk, Miguel, Aisha, Sam, Robbie, all of these characters come from gray areas. You don’t watch this show and say, “This is the good guy and this is the bad guy.” I think that’s something that a lot of us can relate to. When you face these situations, a lot of the times you’re like, “I agree with both parties. To be quite honest, I don’t know who I should be rooting for.” Being a character who is vulnerable and being a character who is not the stereotypical macho kind of guy is refreshing. It’s wonderful to be able to, at the very end of the season, do a total 180. It’s so awesome.
Q: How irredeemable do you think the situation with Sam is?
Xolo Mariduena: That’s one of the things that I hear about. The comment that I see the most is, “We want Miguel and Sam together again.” Going into season two, I think we’re going to see that it’s not irredeemable, but both parties have a lot of learning to do about each other and have a lot of growing to do as people before they’re ready for that.
Q: Where will we see the growth in Miguel this season?
Xolo Mariduena: So we ended last season with him doing a total 180 and really using the Strike Hard, Strike First, No Mercy mantra, blood in blood out. What he wants more than anything is to win, not only for Cobra Kai but for Johnny Lawrence. Johnny is very much a father figure to Miguel and all that Miguel wants to do is make him proud. Sometimes that means doing things that aren’t necessarily respected in the competition environment and doing what you have to do to win. In Miguel’s mind, he doesn’t see that as the wrong thing. He sees it as aren’t you proud of me? I won. This is what we’ve been talking about for as long as we can remember. We saw it in a teaser that came out for season two, he’s not proud of Miguel and he’s not proud of Hawk for doing what they did. It’s not a slap in the face but it definitely is a wakeup call in being that Miguel is like, “Oh shoot, maybe I was going down the wrong path. Let’s do some recorrection. Let’s take a few steps back and try to figure out, gather our bearings and see where we’re going to next.”
Xolo Mariduena: So in season one, you establish the characters. In season two, we know who everyone is. There are a couple of characters that are brought in here and there. The stakes are raised for sure. There’s more fighting. There’s more action. There’s more drama and more of all, there’s more rivalry. I’m not spoiling anything when I say that season two is going to be phenomenal.
Xolo Mariduena: So it’s funny that you say that because the scene is either in the first or second episode where I’m like, “Thats’ politically incorrect. You can’t say that.” It’s funny, because I’ve had that conversation before with people. I’ve had people like Johnny be like, “What are you talking about?” A lot of people feel like this, like, “What I’m saying isn’t wrong. This is what I grew up with. Why should I change it?” I agree with it in some aspects but to be quite honest, I feel like we’re in a day and age where you rightfully have to watch what you say. I think it’s a great thing because it’s so easy to say whatever you want when there’s no repercussions. It’s funny to see a character like Johnny because there are Johnnys everywhere. So seeing someone like a Miguel in today’s day and age is funny.
Q: Will there be a crossover in season three with the Jackie Chan Karate Kid?
Xolo Mariduena: That universe of the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan? I would love to. I really enjoyed that Jaden Smith Karate Kid. I actually just met Jaden Smith for the first time recently and he’s exactly what I envisioned him like. I think in pop culture, the only thing I see about him is that he’s very otherworldly and has all these conspiracy theories. He’s just like that in real life so that was really refreshing but I would love to. Obviously, I am in no way in charge of that and if it does happen, I’m not trying to spoil anything. It would be a total coincidence if it did, but I would love to. Even the Hilary Swank version. All of them coming together, they’re all part of one universe, so why not bring them together?
Q: So who would win between you and Jaden?
Xolo Mariduena: He can do the splits, so. He could do the splits at 12 years old. I feel like just out of pure humbleness I would have to say Jaden Smith.
Q: If you could fight anyone from Parenthood, who would it be?
Xolo Mariduena: Oh my gosh! Craig T. Nelson. I feel like that’d be the coolest story. I don’t think I would win, just because I feel like the sheer intimidation factor that he brings on a set… but it’s funny because Craig T. is one of the only people that I would feel like he would kick my ass and still make me feel bad about it. He is the most down to Earth person I’ve ever met and I feel like he would punch me in the face and and I would be like, “I’m so sorry. I apologize for whatever you’ve done.” I love that guy.
Q: He’s Mr. Incredible and Coach.
Xolo Mariduena: Yeah, he’s Mr. Incredible and it’s funny because the year before I booked Parenthood, I dressed up as Mr. Incredible. Probably the first two years of filming, I had no idea that he was Mr. Incredible. It wasn’t until I think our last season filming that I went up to him and I was like, “I love The Incredibles.” It’s a run on joke that he would always just do Mr. Incredible’s voice which I didn’t understand until recently is just his voice. Now when I saw the second Incredibles, all I could see was him doing the lines. It didn’t ruin it for me but he’s such an amazing person.
Q: Who would win, Martin Kove or Craig T. Nelson?
Xolo Mariduena: That’s funny. I think Martin would win. Would he cheat? I don’t know. Martin is one of those guys, I said Craig was intimidating, when I first met Martin, when he walked into the room, the ambiance changed. It was one of those things where we’re not afraid of him but something is different. I met him and he has the most firm handshake ever. I’m like, “You’re someone not to be messed with.” Just because of that, but he lives this life where he just lives and breathes someone who is awesome and because of that, I feel like I’d have to go with him.
Q: Did anyone recognize you at the Kids’ Choice Awards with long hair and a beard?
Xolo Mariduena: Yeah, I’ve got the facial hair, or a couple hairs that I do have on my chin. Yeah, the scruff. I look like a little rat right now. It’s funny that you say that because even now, I get recognized more from Parenthood than I do Cobra Kai and I think that’s because when I’m not filming Cobra Kai, I look so different. What you guys are looking at right now, I have way longer hair than I do in Cobra Kai. I have glasses on. I have the couple of hairs on my face so because of that, but I don’t know why. When I do, it’s the coolest thing ever. It’s the only environment where you’re talking to someone face to face and they can say, “I love the show” or “Why did you do that?” I feel like social media is such an easy outlet to do that. When you put a phone in front of someone’s face they just say whatever they want. A lot of times, it’s the negative stuff. Seeing someone in person, they’re like, “I love this part and this part and this part.” There’s no other area where you get to do that. I really appreciate it. If anyone ever does see me, don’t be afraid to walk up.