Catching up With Actor Xolo Maridueña Ahead of ‘Cobra Kai’ Season 3

Courtesy of Netflix

Actor Xolo Maridueña and the rest of the cast of the critically acclaimed series Cobra Kai had no idea the show would be moving streaming services before the premiere of the third season. The first two seasons earned a cult following on YouTube’s streaming service in 2018 and 2019, but when a new opportunity arose to move the show to Netflix, a deal was made that transformed it into a mainstream hit.

“We were filming season three unbeknownst to us that we were going to be moving to Netflix,” Maridueña tells Remezcla. “Regardless of what platform we were on, we wanted to put our best foot forward.”

Fortunately, Cobra Kai’s best foot forward was more of a Godzilla-sized leap that no one could’ve imagined. When Netflix released seasons 1 and 2 in August 2020, its popularity skyrocketed. Although numbers for streaming services are always hard to come by, Parrot Analytics said “demand for the series grew by 110.7% against the market average” following the debut of seasons one and two on Netflix.

“It was this perfect storm of people during quarantine who were just browsing Netflix,” Maridueña says. “I’m hoping [for] that same kind of magic.”

There’s no question that the third season of Cobra Kai is ramping up for some massive numbers when it debuts on Netflix on January 1, 2021. Netflix is so confident in the show, it’s already greenlit a fourth season.

So, does the show actually live up to the hype? Season three of Cobra Kai continues to emphasize character and nostalgia above everything else. It’s really what is going to keep fans from fully embracing the new episodes.

Netflix already greenlit a fourth season.

Still, gen Xers will love watching Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence’s (William Zabka) frienemyship evolve. New fans of the franchise will enjoy seeing Miguel Diaz (Maridueña) and the new generation of aspiring karate masters create their own alliances and clear up any questions about loyalty held over from season two.

During our interview, Maridueña, who is of Mexican, Cuban and Ecuadorian descent, talked about why he doesn’t consider Johnny Lawrence the villain of the Karate Kid franchise, why he thinks the original movies have stood the test of time and what he looks forward to being nostalgic about 30 years from now.

I grew up in the 1980s, so the original Karate Kid was a big part of my life. Although I know Johnny was the leader of the Cobra Kai, he wasn’t the character that scared me the most. Dutch did.

(Laughs) He’s just unpredictable! He has that spontaneity where you’re like, “I don’t know what he’s about to do, but I know it’s going to be chaotic.”

So, when you watch the original film for the first time, did you consider Johnny the main villain?

You know, I think it’s a little hard for me to gauge. Something that Billy (William Zabka) has told me is that when he was playing Johnny [in the original film], never once did he consider himself the villain of that franchise. That really put a new lens on how I watch the film. Johnny is just a high schooler. High schoolers go through a really rough time. I think Johnny is no different. I think he was put into some unfortunate situations. So, I don’t know how I could ever consider him the villain. Getting to work with [William] now, I definitely don’t think he’s the villain.

Courtesy of Netflix
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Since you didn’t grow up watching the franchise, when you first saw it, did you understand the appeal? Or did it take a while to discover what made it so special for so many people?

I enjoyed the movies and I understand why people liked them. I guess, for something like a Star Wars or a Lord of the Rings, there is that fantastical element that I think people really fall in love with. It’s that escapism and wanting to be in Hogwarts [from the Harry Potter franchise]—this place that doesn’t exist. What I think Cobra Kai does really well is take that fantastical element and grounds it in the real world. People who grew up in the 80s loved that movie because everyone had a little bit of a Daniel in them. I couldn’t relate to Anakin or Dobby, but everyone saw a lot of life in Daniel and Johnny. I think that paralleled a lot of people growing up in that time. I think that’s why fans to this day still ride so hard for The Karate Kid because it helped them through a time that might’ve been rough. Honestly, that makes it cooler than being part of a Star Wars or Harry Potter. I feel there is more emotion and feeling and heart in a movie like The Karate Kid.

The Karate Kid helped [people] through a time that might’ve been rough.

Is there a specific thing from past generations that you either totally get or didn’t get when it came to its popularity—a movie or TV show or music or fashion?

That’s funny because with movies, I feel like they are hit or miss. But with music, my mom and dad are huge hip-hop fans. Growing up, I didn’t listen to a lot of hip-hop because that hip-hop was different from the Run DMCs of the world. It’s funny, going to my parents and being like, “Yo, have you heard of Tupac?! This guy is amazing!” They’re like, “Yes, of course we’ve heard of Tupac. You didn’t discover Tupac.” In that regard, I had a lot of conversations with my parents about Pharcyde and Public Enemy. Tupac and Biggie are like their own versions of Daniel and Johnny. I have my own fun discovering these guys.

What from your childhood do you think you’ll be nostalgic about in 30 years? Do you think it’ll stand the test of time?

You know, you have someone like Frank Sinatra who feels very classic. Maybe not a lot of people are making music like that anymore, but it’s still good. I feel like with the type of music I listen to today, I don’t know if 30 years from now I’m going to be like, “J. Cole still stands the test of time.” It’s kind of hard to make that parallel, but hindsight is 20/20. Thirty years from now, we could still be bumping to Kendrick Lamar.