Cobra Kai seasons 1 and 2 are now on Netflix, and the show is growing massively in popularity.
New viewers may have noticed a familiar name in the show's credits: Will Smith.
Here's the story of how Will Smith became an executive producer on Cobra Kai.
Fans either in the midst of binging their way through Cobra Kai seasons 1 and 2 (now available to stream on Netflix) or already eagerly awaiting Season 3 have probably noticed a familiar name in the opening credits of every episode: Hollywood superstar Will Smith. It's fair to wonder how the Men In Black and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star's name ended up on a series that seems pretty far out of his usual wheelhouse—but the answer makes a ton of sense.
As it turns out, Smith's production company, Overbrook Entertainment, owns the rights to the Karate Kid franchise. You might remember that back in 2010, a Karate Kid reboot starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith (Will's son and hip-hop artist) was released in an attempt to start the storied '80s franchise back up (Columbia Picutres/Sony Entertainment has owned the movie rights since the original was released, but Smith's Overbrook has overseen the title since that reboot). The movie was a huge box office hit (grossing $359 million against a budget of only $40 million) and a moderate critical success (it has a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes) but a sequel never got off the ground.
As they said in an interview with Business Insider, Cobra Kai co-creators Hayden Schlossberg, Jon Hurwitz, and Josh Heald had to clear the rights with not only Smith's Overbrook Entertainment, but also the estate of late producer Jerry Weintraub and Sony itself.
They met with Caleeb Pinkett, Smith's brother-in-law and the head of creative for Overbrook. At first, their pitch was just to have their show live in its own universe.
“We went into that meeting thinking that we would say to him you can still have the movie universe and if Jaden wants to do another Karate Kid feature you can still do that, but like Marvel, there’s now a TV show and the movies,” Hurwitz said.
To their surprise, Pinkett was into the idea right away, and volunteered to bring it to Weintraub's estate and Sony. As the Business Insider interview says, he became a champion for the show when pitching it with higher ups.
“He was the one fighting the fights in our meetings,” Hurwitz said.
Hurwitz added that he thinks a big reason why Pinkett and Overbrook were so excited to pitch the show was that Cobra Kai, as the three co-creators conceived it, was a different format than anyone was thinking. He suspects they were thinking of another feature film sequel—and the idea of doing a TV series changed the game.
“I got the vibe that there was always talks of doing a sequel but it wasn’t clear where that was,” Schlossberg said. “But TV wasn’t even thought of.”
And so, eventually, the path was made. Cobra Kai made it to production, and then made it to YouTube Premium (formerly known as YouTube Red). Smith and Pinkett's names are on every single episode as executive producers, and now the show is on Netflix—gaining new fans one day at a time.
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