Warning: The Following Interview Contains SPOILERS for Cobra Kai Season 5The best surprise of Cobra Kai season 5 is the return of Robyn Lively as Jessica Andrews. Robyn played Jessica in The Karate Kid Part III, and she was one of the last remaining legacy characters fans clamored to see in Cobra Kai.
Her role in the franchise began as Daniel LaRusso’s (Ralph Macchio) possible love interest, but she soon became his good friend instead. Cobra Kai showcases how that friendship has continued to flourish by establishing that Jessica is actually a cousin to Daniel’s wife, and her knowledge of his personality and situation makes her a strong advocate for their relationship in season 5.
Screen Rant interviewed Robyn Lively about how she finally joined Cobra Kai, her thoughts on how Jessica was integrated into the LaRusso family backstory, stories from the Cobra Kai season 5 set, and whether Robyn would return as Jessica in Cobra Kai season 6.
Robyn Lively Talks Cobra Kai
Screen Rant: You played Jessica Andrews in The Karate Kid Part III, and now you’re back in Cobra Kai season 5. Did you ever think you get to play Jessica again?
Robyn Lively: I honestly didn’t. But as soon as I saw Cobra Kai, and I saw what they were doing and how they were bringing back legacy characters, I was like, “Oh, it’s gonna happen. It’s just a matter of time.” But I could not have imagined a smarter way to bring Jessica back.
Yeah, I really want to get into that because I honestly thought that the way you were woven into the story was just brilliant.
Robyn Lively: It was genius. Hats off to [executive producers] Josh [Heald] and Jon [Hurwitz] and Hayden [Schlossberg]. Because I know you know, you can tell that a lot of thought and care went into bringing Jessica back. The fans have such high expectations. It’s gotta be so much pressure. But I think that they literally just hit it out of the park the way that they brought Jessica back into the Cobra Kai universe and the way that they weaved her into the LaRusso family. It was so smart and so good. I could not have found a better way myself. I was like this is ingenious, I love it.
When did you first find out Cobra Kai was even a thing, and Ralph Macchio and William Zabka were continuing The Karate Kid as a TV show?
Robyn Lively: A couple of years ago, I started hearing all this buzz about Cobra Kai. Billy [Zabka] is a very good friend of mine for years and years and years. Of course, it’s on my radar, and I’m so excited because [of] resurgence of this, and the success of it, and how wonderful this is to happen to one of my dear friends. I could not have been more excited [for Billy].
Of course, I was watching [Cobra Kai] and following it. I became a fan of the show, and my kids are fans of the show. So it’s just evolved into this larger-than-life thing. Who would have expected this? But when you see the way that they’ve done it, the creators have brought back the nostalgia, and they’ve really done such an incredible job at it. Because in the hands of anyone else it could have just been an absolute flop, but I love the way they’ve done it.
When Cobra Kai first started bringing back the movie legacy characters, your return as Jessica was obviously something people wanted, including me. So can you tell me how it finally happened?
Robyn Lively: I got the call a few weeks before shooting: “Is Robyn available for episode five?” Of course! She’s so excited. And I showed up on set. And it was, honestly, a reunion of epic proportions. So much screaming and dancing, and I was so excited.
And what was really cool is the creators, Jon, Josh, and Hayden, they were just as excited and giddy about meeting me as I was about being a part of the show. But having worked with Ralph, I hadn’t seen him since I think I was 20. Of course, I know Billy, and Billy, gave me the full tour. And then Yuji [Okumoto] and I worked together years ago, along with Thomas Ian Griffith’s wife, Mary Page Keller. So it was like a full circle. It was incredible.
That’s amazing. Sean Kanan is also back as Mike Barnes. Did you get to see him?
Robyn Lively: Of course! I hadn’t seen Sean in forever. But watch what a good guy. I adore him. We had such a wonderful time working together. He’s the nicest guy.
He’s the total opposite of how he was in the movie.
Robyn Lively: Well, of course. And then for him to be so brutal with me. Thankfully, he was the opposite of that in real life.
I thought it was really clever that they advertised Sean coming back as Mike Barnes, and that distracted from the fact that you were in the show. I love that it was a total surprise. The door opens, and there’s Jessica.
Robyn Lively: Yes, I was so proud and so impressed with how they kept that under wraps. And I was very careful not to say anything as well. It was the hardest secret I’ve ever had to sit on for an entire year, let me tell you, but it was smart. And it made it such a great surprise for the fans.
I’ve loved scrolling social media and seeing all of the comments. Like, “I screamed when she opened the door, and it was you!” People just seem to be so excited by the return of Jessica. Because you have no idea how people are going to react.
I thought how Jessica ties into the story as Amanda’s [Courtney Henggeler] cousin was brilliant. It makes perfect sense that she introduced Daniel to his wife, and now you’re all family. So give me your take on that whole thing.
Robyn Lively: I thought it was such a smart way to bring her back into the story. To make her part of the family made perfect sense. I can’t imagine a better backstory, to be honest with you. It also lends itself to future episodes and storylines. And I love how Jessica seems to be the same as she was before. She’s like this positive force and positive energy, reminding Amanda what a good guy Daniel is, and what a good egg he is. To have her be family was spot on. I think they hit it out of the park.
Of course, this is Cobra Kai, so Jessica and Amanda get in a bar fight over nothing.
Robyn Lively: Of course they do! (laughs)
Tell me about shooting that scene with Courtney, Mary [Mouser], and Griffin [Santropietro].
Robyn Lively: I read it, and I was screaming-laughing because it’s not often that I get cast in a role where I’m brawling in a bar. And with Elizabeth Ann Rooney [Sunny Mabry], what an incredible Easter egg that was
Courtney made it so easy. Just the moment I met her, she was so kind and warm. Same with Mary and Griffin, they were so great. And it just elevates the entire working experience and process, and allows you to do your best. You could tell we just felt comfortable with each other from the start of it.
And that bar scene! Courtney is so fun. She’s wonderful. We were dancing on set. We were just the entire day. It was just laughing and having the best time in that fight was so great. And we, of course, rely heavily on the stunt women who are wonderful and professional. They make us look amazing and look like we know what we’re doing when we have no idea what we’re doing. They’re doing all the hard work. So yeah, it was really fun.
I feel like Amanda and Carmen [Vanessa Rubio] should finally learn some karate. And maybe Jessica should too. Would you guys want to train and do full-on Cobra Kai fights?
Robyn Lively: Yes! One hundred percent! Look, scrapping is in our blood, apparently. Amanda and Jessica, we scrap. That’s what we do. That’s how we survived. (laughs) So it makes perfect sense that we would learn karate and get into it, right? The women got to do it.
Did the producers give you more backstory as to what Jessica has been up to for the last 30 years?
Robyn Lively: No, no, they haven’t. But I feel like the way that they’ve introduced her just lends itself to endless opportunities. So we’ll actually explore it, hopefully.
Me too. Because like when you appeared, my mind just started backtracking. Like, Jessica must have been at the wedding. She must have gone to Mr. Miyagi’s funeral. I want flashbacks. I want to see all of this stuff.
Robyn Lively: I love it. It’s like I’m telling you, the opportunities are endless. And I love the flashbacks to The Karate Kid and the callbacks to Part III. Honestly, I couldn’t have been more impressed with how they did it. I’m so glad that they waited as long as they did because I was so anxious to be a part of the show. But I feel like the timing was absolutely perfect.
I also wanted to ask you, there’s a really nice selfie floating around in the interwebs of you and William Zabka at Mr. Miyagi’s house. Were you just visiting the set or is that something more?
Robyn Lively: Oh, that’s my photo. That was my first day on set going to wardrobe. So of course, I went around and said hello to everyone, screaming the entire way. During lunch, Billy was like, “Oh, I’m gonna show you around.” So he just took me around the set.
I did a video for my kids who are huge fans of the show. And Billy was so wonderful. He showed me all the sets, and I was, of course, geeking out and freaking out because it’s just the coolest ever. To see the replica of [Mr. Miyagi’s] dojo just tapped into such nostalgia for me, and to be there with my good friend. So I was excited as you could see. I was like “Let’s get a photo right here!” So that’s just one of my personal photos.
I don’t recall Jessica actually going to Mr. Miyagi’s house in Part III.
Robyn Lively: Right, that had nothing to do with the story. Johnny and Jessica, their worlds have never crossed paths. But maybe they will. They should. I think they should probably do a fun little history.
I did a show called Gortimer Gibbons’ Life on Normal Street a few years ago and Billy did a guest spot on it. And he was the sensei in a dojo. And I said to the writers, “You guys, you have to put me in the scene.” They’re like, “But Robyn, it doesn’t make any sense for you to be in the scene.” I’m like, “I don’t care. Do it. The fans of Karate Kid will love that little Easter egg.” So they did. It made no sense for me to be in the scene whatsoever. It’s somewhere far down on my Instagram, the two of us in GIs. And we just had the best time, we had so much fun. But that’s the only time we worked together.
Wow, that’s amazing. So, obviously, now that you’re back, the sky’s the limit with Cobra Kai. Anything can happen now. Will you come back for season six?
Robyn Lively: If I’m asked, 100%. Of course, I will. Just to be a part of this franchise is such an honor for me. It was such a career highlight to be part of the Karate Kid III, you have NO idea. And now to be a part of this show that I’m a huge fan of, it’s just full circle. So it’s an exciting time.
About Cobra Kai Season 5
Cobra Kai takes place over 30 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament with the continuation of the inescapable conflict between Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka).
Following the shocking results of the All Valley Tournament, Season 5 finds Terry Silver expanding the Cobra Kai empire and trying to make his “No Mercy” style of karate the only game in town. With Kreese behind bars and Johnny Lawrence setting karate aside to focus on repairing the damage he’s caused, Daniel LaRusso must call on an old friend for help.
Check out our other interviews with Cobra Kai stars:
All episodes of Cobra Kai season 5 are now available to stream on Netflix.