Cobra Kai has been a smash hit for Netflix, and the reason why is pretty simple. The show has met fans’ wishes to see characters from the original film series return for an encore, and been rewarded with big ratings, critical acclaim, and lots of positive buzz. For Karate Kid fans, the inevitable question that remains is this: Will Hilary Swank return to reprise her Next Karate Kid role as Julie Pierce? Ralph Macchio and the Cobra Kai cast have plenty of thoughts, as you might expect.
Cobra Kai was recently honored at PaleyFest LA 2022, where the Paley Center for Media assembled Ralph Macchio and the cast to discuss the last four seasons. There was, of course, discussion of what’s to come, and during the event’s red carpet, Entertainment Tonight asked Macchio if Hilary Swank will join in the tradition of past Karate Kid actors appearing on the show. “Anyone who’s in the Miyagi-verse, meaning anyone who knew Mr. Miyagi, it makes sense in our storytelling,” Macchio responded to the question of Swank returning and joining the Miyagi-Do Alliance. “It’s a yes-yes-maybe-yes-no. I don’t know,” he coyly said of the possibility.
Other Cobra Kai actors seemed as excited as Ralph Macchio for the possibility, although none confessed to having any knowledge or insight into a possible appearance. When asked about the support to bring Swank back, Jacob Bertrand (Eli ‘Hawk’ Moskowitz) excitedly told ET “Yes! 100% yes, I’m pulling for her to come back,” he said. “She’s in the canon, so anyone in the Miyagi-verse…..I’m a big fan of hers,” William Zabka said, choosing his words carefully, as if he might know something and does not want to give it away.
Hilary Swank is just about the last major character from the original films that has yet to appear in Cobra Kai, so an appearance is overdue. The Next Karate Kid, released in 1994, cast Swank in the lead after Ralph Macchio publicly said he wasn’t interested in continuing the role. At the time, he was 33, and it would have been difficult to maintain the believability. The film, however, flopped at the box office with only $9 million in ticket sales, and critics panned the rehashed plot. Swank went on to have the most celebrated career of the original Karate Kid cast (although Elizabeth Shue could make a good argument). She won two Best Actress Oscars, for 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. The producers of Cobra Kai have said they would love to see Swank return to the role, although the actress has kept mum on the subject.
Having Hilary Swank return could actually serve as a pivotal plot point for the upcoming season 5 storyline. Screen Rant pointed out a popular online fan theory that Julie Pierce is actually the mother of troubled Cobra Kai member Tory, played by Peyton List. Her character could easily pair with Ralph Macchio’s, as they share the common bond of Miyagi’s training.
Recent Hollywood reboots and sequels often dismiss, deconstruct, and outright disrespect beloved franchises and the original themes, stories, and actors that made them great. That has led to a lot of disappointment and anger from fan bases, as those behind the Star Wars, Matrix, and Star Trek reboots can attest. Cobra Kai seems to excel by doing the exact opposite – the series embraced the original films, and treated them with respect. The producers centered the series on the original actors and storylines, without cheaply rehashing or defying expectations. In Cobra Kai, both Ralph Macchio and William Zabka have been able return to the roles that made them famous and expand upon them, so the characters of Daniel and Johnny are familiar, yet experience character growth in story arcs that feel like a natural, organic extension.
Even if Hilary Swank does not return in season five of Cobra Kai, there is still a chance to see Julie make an appearance. The producers of Cobra Kai have stated that they have more seasons planned past the fifth, although an exact number of seasons is not clear. They have an ending in mind for the series, but are not committed to how many seasons it will take to get there. Ralph Macchio and William Zabka have both said they’re up for more seasons, so there’s always a chance for Swank to join the cast.