Here’s how Ralph Macchio knows the”Netflix Effect” is real: Shopping in public has once again become a little more of a challenge. “Exterior of having a mask on, it is tougher to get out to the grocery store,” he says. “I had a few years where I could go in and out. Now it is a little bit limited.” It is not only at the corner store. Macchio recently discovered himself swarmed with a new generation of teens while attending a hockey game. However, he is not complaining — just the contrary. For Macchio, “The Karate Kid” franchise, reborn as “Cobra Kai,” is the “gift that keeps giving. I am as blessed and lucky as you can get.”

Macchio first reprised his trademark character as”The Karate Kid,” the today all-grown-up Daniel LaRusso, when”Cobra Kai” surfaced on YouTube in 2018. Critics embraced the show and its smart take on what happened to Daniel and his former rival, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) — as did fans of the first 1980s franchise.

“Cobra Kai” became the most-watched show on YouTube’s subscription support, and another season followed 2019. But then YouTube got out of the scripted business — and producer Sony Pictures TV, which has a lengthy history of keeping displays living by moving them to other platforms (“Community” and”One Day at a Time” among them), saw a big opportunity in Netflix. The first two seasons of”Cobra Kai” moved to Netflix last year, followed by a third year that surfaced on New Year’s Day 2021. Wax on: Then,”Cobra Kai” swept the leg.

I talked to Macchio soon after he wrapped shooting Season 4 of”Cobra Kai” and was just emerging from that production bubble to go through the new wave of fandom that’s enveloped the series.

“All credit to YouTube for being the first to provide us the opportunity to make the series,” he says. “But it was sort of like, you get to play from the little leagues and also hone your game and after that you’re at Yankee Stadium. [Netflix] is that large next step up. Possessing the global impact is so cool”

It’s been a long time coming for Macchio, who’d already been seen on TV in”Eight Is Enough” and by moviegoers in”The Outsiders” when”The Karate Kid” opened in 1984 — and instantly became a phenomenon. That resulted in two sequels, as well as movies such as”My Cousin Vinny.”

And today, 37 years after first becoming Daniel LaRusso, the awards recognition that’s so far eluded Macchio might happen this year. He and”Cobra Kai” are in the search for Emmy nominations — and could very well arrive.

“This stuff, I am all the richer for experiencing it and not taking it for granted,” Macchio says. “I am really enjoying the chance to continue to tell the tales and create the show. A personality which I co-created with great filmmakers back in 1983, such as its ’84 release, that child became a slice of pop culture, a slice of everyone’s youth. And then having the opportunity decades after to peel the onion back and find the grey areas of the man to dive deeper, individuals seem to be embracing that.”