‘Karate Kid’ Actor Reveals His Co-Star Saved His Life

Rob Garrison, William Zabka, Ron Thomas

YouTube Rob Garrison, William Zabka, and Ron Thomas in "The Karate Kid."

In the 1984 martial arts film “The Karate Kid,” Ron Thomas played Johnny Lawrence’s friend and fellow Cobra Kai teammate, Bobby Brown. On the show “Cobra Kai,” Bobby, who is now a pastor, is often by his friends’ side during their times of need, whether they are suffering from a terminal illness or need to reconnect with their estranged son. It seems that Thomas shares this trait with his character.

“Karate Kid” Actor Tony O’Dell Revealed That Ron Thomas Saved Him From Drowning

During an April 2021 interview on the “Cobra Kai Kompanion” podcast, Tony O’Dell, who played Jimmy in both “The Karate Kid” and “Cobra Kai,” revealed that his co-star once “save[d] his life.” The actor noted that he had remained good friends with his “Karate Kid” cast mates, specifically those who played Cobra Kai students like William “Billy” Zabka, the late Rob Garrison, and Ron Thomas. The 61-year-old explained that he was particularly close with Thomas and would often go on vacations with him. He stated that while on a trip together in Hawaii, he “was stuck in a riptide.” 

“We got separated and then I looked over and there he was. He’s like, ‘what are you doing’ and I’m like, ‘I’m just really tired and I can’t really move my arms. I’m just going to wait for the water to wash me up to the rocks,’” recalled O’Dell. 

According to the 61-year-old, Thomas responded to that alarming information by instructing him to “grab [his] hand.” 

“And he grabbed my hand and we swam out of the water, you know, and we swam out of the riptide and in that moment I didn’t know I would have drowned,” said the actor. 

During the Interview, O’Dell Discussed Returning to “The Karate Kid” Franchise

During the “Cobra Kai Kompanion” interview, O’Dell also spoke about having the opportunity to play Jimmy again in “Cobra Kai” season 2, episode 6, titled “Take a Right.” In the episode, former Cobra Kai members Johnny (William “Billy” Zabka), Jimmy (Tony O’Dell), and Bobby (Ron Thomas) reunite to spend the day with Tommy (Rob Garrison), who is dying of cancer. O’Dell described the situation as being “surreal.” He explained that while he maintained a relationship with his co-stars after filming wrapped on “The Karate Kid,” “it’s a different story” to be working with each other again.  

“I remember at one point we all just looked at each other and I looked at Rob and he looked at Ron and Bill. We all looked at each other and we’re like, ‘Wow this is weird.’ Because 30- 35-36 years have passed and we’re all looking into the same eyes. I mean, granted our faces have changed somewhat but in a sense it was like we had just finished and yet it felt like it was another lifetime ago,” said O’Dell.

During the interview, the actor also discussed Rob Garrison’s passing in September 2019. According to TMZ, he “had been in the hospital for over a month dealing with kidney and liver issues” before passing away. O’Dell stated he was aware that some viewers believed Garrison “was sick during” the filming of “Take a Right.”

“He played like he was sick. I mean clearly the character was sick but he wasn’t sick at the time but it wasn’t for until a year later when he ended up getting pneumonia and having complications and passed away,” explained the “Head of the Class” star.  

During a January 2021 interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, William “Billy” Zabka shared similar information about Garrison’s death. He asserted that “he was not sick when we were filming that episode.” 

 “He got sick later. It was in a way some kind of serendipity. But he had a chance to put his last Tommy out there and lay Tommy down the way he would’ve wanted to as an artist. And he was beautiful in that, so it’s a tribute to him,” said the 55-year-old. 

READ NEXT: Chad McQueen’s Daughter Reveals if He Will Be in ‘Cobra Kai’

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