The character Johnny Lawrence (William “Billy” Zabka) was introduced as a violent bully in the 1984 film “The Karate Kid.” The acclaimed series “Cobra Kai” takes a look at how the disgraced Cobra Kai student has been handling adulthood. In the first season, Johnny is unemployed, has an estranged relationship with his son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan), and still resents Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), who is successful in his personal and professional life. As the show progresses, Daniel and Johnny get into countless arguments. However, in season 3, episode 10, they come to the decision that the best way to better their chances at winning the next All Valley Tournament is to instruct members of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do Karate at a shared dojo.
The Co-Creator of ‘Cobra Kai’ Discussed Johnny & Daniel
During an August 2021 The Hollywood Reporter interview, Josh Heald, the co-creator of “Cobra Kai,” shared some information on how the middle-aged martial artists will handle each other during the fourth season. The executive producer discussed Macchio and Zabka’s performances on the show. He noted that by making Johnny and Daniel multifaceted in the series, the actors are tasked to give their characters more depth.
“We’re not only asking Ralph to play different colors with Daniel [LaRusso] later in life, after conquering the demons and moving on and having a great family, and then getting sucked back into this karate war. But he’s doing it all without Mr. Miyagi,” said Heald.
The writer also shared that Zabka’s portrayal of Johnny mirrors the actor’s own life, suggesting that he is misunderstood. He told the publication:
And likewise, for Billy, this feels in real-time like watching an actor exorcise the demons of having been remembered and typecast in certain ways of being an ’80s villain. It’s a way of accepting that there is trauma in the past with John Lawrence and it’s the trauma that Johnny carried with him through life.
Heald then shared “season four delivers on the premise of the series, which is what happens when these guys get into each other’s lives and get under each other’s skin.” He explained that the audience has endured dramatic moments between the two senseis. He went onto say fans will finally see the characters “putting down their weapons and looking at each other and accepting the challenge in front of them with [head teacher John] Kreese and kind of taking that next step and trying to grow as adults and leaders.”
“[I]t’s a great tipping point for them as performers and for their characters because it starts to provide new colors to their arrangement that are not just ‘I hate you, I hate you.’ We’re finally entering into a second phase of their relationship,” shared Heald.
William Zabka Also Spoke About Johnny & Daniel in June 2021
In a June 2021 Collider interview, William Zabka also spoke about Johnny and Daniel. He noted that as of the season 3 finale, the martial artists “have a common foe in Kreese now” and “have the same goal here.”
“There’s a lot to clean up here with these kids coming together and now we have to march on into the battle and you know, these are two complex characters who are so similar but so different,” said the 55-year-old.