Karate Kid Ralph Macchio Was Passed Over For A Role In The Biggest 90s Sitcom

Ralph Macchio was nearly cast in Friends when the show was first looking for actors, but producers passed him over.

By Vic Medina | Published

Ralph Macchio was almost “there for you” as a member of the cast of Friends…until he wasn’t. In a new interview with The Guardian, the actor discussed his career between The Karate Kid movies and Cobra Kai, and revealed that, at one point in the 1990s, he was under contract with NBC to appear in various projects. As part of that, he was under consideration to join both Friends and ER when those shows were first being cast, but didn’t get roles in either one.

“I was on an overall deal with the studio that was casting both Friends and ER,” Ralph Macchio said. “And somehow I wasn’t put in either of them.” While he admitted losing out on such iconic shows was a letdown, he’s learned to be more philosophical about things that don’t go your way. “Do you want to know the truth of it? From where I’m sitting now? It was the best thing. The right people get the right parts,” he said.

He didn’t reveal which role in Friends he auditioned for, and it’s surprising he wasn’t cast, as he had just come off of a pretty successful film appearance in 1992’s My Cousin Vinny. Without those roles, he spent most of the 1990s and early 2000s doing smaller projects and guest-starring roles. In 2008, he had a short run on Ugly Betty, and appeared in TV shows that capitalized on his pop culture status, like Entourage, Psych, and How I Met Your Mother.

It was a surprising turn for a career that started off strong with appearances on Eight is Enough and in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. Ralph Macchio hit superstardom when he was cast in 1984’s The Karate Kid and became the fourth biggest hit of that year, raking in over $90 million in ticket sales. That put it just behind Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Gremlins in earnings for the year, and yet ahead of films like Police Academy, Footloose, and Beverly Hills Cop.

Ralph Macchio
Ralph Macchio and William Zabka in Cobra Kai

Cobra Kai has provided a career renaissance not only for Ralph Macchio, but for co-star William Zabka as well, whose career also stalled in the 1990s and the aughts. Although Zabka was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004 for Best Short Film (Live Action), reprising his role as Johnny Lawrence was by far the best thing to happen to him post-80s.

Season 5 of Cobra Kai was another hit for Netflix when it premiered in September. It remains to be seen what direction the next season may take, and how the recent reports of a new Karate Kid movie in the works may affect that. Fans, however, are still hoping Hillary Swank will join the list of former Karate Kid actors to return for the series.

Although it would be fun to “fan-cast” Ralph Macchio in either Friends or ER and debate which role he could have had, it’s probably safe to say we would have never gotten Cobra Kai had he been cast in either show, so audiences ended up benefiting from it in the end.