During its three-season run, Cobra Kai has delighted critics and fans of The Karate Kid by staying true to the lore of the films and expanding on the mythology in interesting ways. While the show has updated the material for a new generation of viewers, it still maintains the essence of those classic ‘80s films. The one bittersweet aspect of the series, however, is that Pat Morita -- who played the wise and funny Mr. Miyagi -- is not around to see it. The spirit of Morita’s character permeates the show, though it’s hard not to feel his absence. Cobra Kai stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka have fond memories of the late actor, and they also have thoughts on how Morita might feel about the show.
Ralph Macchio worked with Pat Morita on the three original films in the Karate Kid trilogy and ultimately got to know him quite well. When asked how Morita would feel about Cobra Kai, Macchio expressed his belief that the actor would be more than pleased with how it’s turned out:
He would love it. He’s shining down on us with a big smile. On top of everything else, he’s our friend, you know? So he’s happy for his friends. Same thing with John Avildsen, our director. Without them, we’re not doing this.
Pat Morita and late franchise director John Avildsen definitely set the tone for The Karate Kid and are without a doubt two of the biggest pillars of the franchise. William Zabka respected both men and became particularly close with Morita. And During his and Macchio’s chat with Esquire, Zabka echoed his co-stars sentiments:
He would be having a blast with this. He’s the soul of Miyagi-do, the wise Yoda that’s maybe not with us, but still with us.
While Pat Morita had a varied career as an actor and comedian, it was his role as the kind Mr. Miyagi that truly made him a staple of pop culture. It may be hard to believe, but the Karate Kid producers originally didn’t want Morita for the role due to the fact that he was synonymous with the character of Arnold Takahashi from Happy Days. But the hesitance to hire him went away after he read with Ralph Macchio for the first time.
Morita had great affection for the character of Miyagi and, up until his death, he was looking for ways to reprise the role. As a matter of fact, Zabka previously revealed that Morita pitched him a Karate Kid revamp centered on Miyagi and Johnny Lawrence.
Most fans would probably agree with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka that Morita would be happy with Cobra Kai. And while he would surely have gotten a kick out of playing Miyagi on the show, he would likely be even more pleased by the sheer enjoyment the series brings people.
Cobra Kai is available to stream on Netflix.