"Listen — I blame my parents," the star tells PEOPLE in this week's issue

By Michelle Tauber
January 06, 2021 09:00 AM
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Ralph Macchio knows his self-described "young gene" can be confusing to fans.

"Listen — I blame my parents," the star, 59, tells PEOPLE with a laugh. "They both look very young for their age. I have a youthful energy about me for some reason. A healthy lifestyle doesn't hurt. But I think I've just gotten lucky in the gene department."

Macchio, who stars in the Netflix hit series Cobra Kai — which debuted its third season on Jan. 1 to record-breaking viewership — became a household name playing teen martial arts student Daniel LaRusso in 1984's The Karate Kid. (He was 22 at the time.)

When he appeared as a college student in the Oscar-winning 1992 film My Cousin Vinny, he was already married and expecting his first child. And as he reprises his Karate Kid role in Cobra Kai, he has no trouble sliding back into the athletic gig. But a consequence of looking like the boy next door for most of his life is that he's recognized whenever he leaves the house.

Watch the full episode of People Features: Ralph Macchio streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

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Ralph Macchio photographed for PEOPLE in December
| Credit: Michael Schwartz

"I always joke that if there's a fly in a restaurant," he says, referring to one of Karate Kid's famous scenes, "I have about nine seconds to get out before someone's handing me a pair of chopsticks."

The buzz has only gotten louder since the first two seasons of Cobra Kai moved from YouTube Premium to Netflix in June and introduced a wider audience to its blend of '80s nostalgia (yes, that's REO Speedwagon on the soundtrack), modern parenting challenges and middle-age regrets.

ralph macchio and william zabka in cobra kai
Ralph Macchio and William Zabka in Netflix's Cobra Kai
| Credit: Everett

For much more on Ralph Macchio, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

"Kids see the show and then tell their parents, 'Hey, you should check this out. It's really cool,'" says Macchio, a father of two who has been married to his high school sweetheart, nurse practitioner Phyllis, 60, for 33 years.

"And the parents say, 'What are you talking about? That was our first date movie!'" he continues. "To go through the ebbs and flows of popularity for 36-plus years and now be in a place where parents, kids and even grandparents are sharing the same excitement is really special."