"The stories get deeper, the characters get more complex, [and] the fighting is more awesome," Ralph Macchio told PEOPLE at the MTV Movie and TV Awards on Sunday
Ralph Macchio and William Zabka
Credit: Kevin Winter/2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards/Getty

Now that Cobra Kai has sunk its fangs into the wildly loyal audience that discovered the Karate Kid sequel series during quarantine, stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka promise that the upcoming fourth season will exceed expectations.

"It was amazing!" Macchio, 59, told PEOPLE during Sunday's 2021 MTV Movie and TV Awards of Cobra Kai's skyrocketing popularity after making a shift to Netflix in advance of its third season debut earlier this year, following two seasons on YouTube Red.

Viewers quarantining at home searching for comforting series with a fresh take on a nostalgic favorite immediately embraced the dramedy, which chronicles the adult rivalry/burgeoning friendship between the central antagonists of the 1984 film The Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, and their second-generation martial arts students.

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio

"The show just blew up on Netflix because it's such a big, broad, wide, international, global audience, and to see that kind of love coming around, it was like the best medicine at the time," Macchio said. "It's just bringing everyone to the party, and I guess no one could leave the party."

"We were all locked down in many ways, so now to have this show just bring people comfort and good feelings and all that, it was exciting to watch it take off in the middle of all this," agreed Zabka, 55. "I think everybody was glued to their TVs and looking for what to watch, and then they clicked our button and it's a great feeling."

While audiences were catching up on Daniel and Johnny's middle-aged misadventures, Macchio and Lawrence and the cast and crew went back to work, filming the upcoming fourth season. "We just wrapped a few weeks ago," said Macchio. "The stories get deeper, the characters get more complex, [and] the fighting is more awesome. The left turns, when you think you might be going right, will dazzle."

"Lots of flights, lots of emotion, drama, good 80s music, and a couple beers," chuckled Zabka, who said fans love trying to anticipate what might happen and who might show up next, and love it even more when Cobra Kai throws them for a loop. "There's a lot of people trying to get ahead of the story and trying to figure it out, but it's pretty impossible to do," he said. "The way these writers write, the unexpected is everything. They just really go for it."


Viewers have come to expect dramatic visits from characters — and actors — seen in the film franchise. So does season 4 offer up a new but familiar face? "You can count on that, I suppose, yeah," said a poker-faced Zabka. "There's always going to be something from the Karate Kid universe that's going to drop into each season. I can't tell you what that is, but yeah, there'll be some fun flashback-type stuff."

Macchio said he's been especially gratified to deepen his relationship with Zabka both on screen and off nearly four decades after they first performed together.

"It's incredible, because when we made the Karate Kid film there was really a disconnect between us," he recalled. "When I was working with Billy, I was getting my a-- kicked! John Avildsen, our director, kept these two characters apart because they had two different lives, and they would come together in a confrontational way. To sort of dive into the deeper and grayer areas of these two guys that maybe are not that different or kind of the same, adds more levels to the characters, and to our friendship as well."

"It's just a good time for this to land in my life," said Zabka. "Now it's a lot of fun. We're having a great time with it, our relationship with the fans, we're having a good time putting the show on, and people are feeling good and sending it back. And that's what it's all about. That's why I signed up to do this. To make people feel something and root for you or root against you, it's a good feeling."

"It's a privilege to have the opportunity, we are just having the time of our lives," agreed Macchio.

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

Both are also enjoying being de facto senseis-by-example for the younger actors on the show, subtly imparting Miyagi-like wisdom. "That's one of the things that I didn't expect to get so much out of," said Macchio. "[Being] the 'old, wise guy' — or at least I pretend to be — I enjoy sharing stories with them, experiences that may guide them in a way when they are confronted with something going forward."

"Since I have walked in those shoes, with great success and sometimes with the trials and tribulation, I really have enjoyed being a voice for them going forward," he added. "They really inspire me with their work. I love these kids, they're fantastic."

"These kids are really mature," said Zabka. "A lot of these kids grew up in showbiz, they grew up on the Disney Channel, they grew up as kid actors, and they're really well-adjusted and they kind of take their own cues. I don't counsel them in any way. I do live, hopefully, by example…It's a two-way street: we learn from each other, really."

A premiere date season 4 of Cobra Kai season 4 has not yet been announced.