‘Karate Kid’ Actor Dishes on Being Zendaya’s Acting Coach


Getty Images Zendaya is photographed in 2021.

In the 1984 martial arts movie “The Karate Kid,” Tony O’Dell appeared as Jimmy, a student at the Cobra Kai dojo, owned by ruthless sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove). Two years after “The Karate Kid” premiered, O’Dell starred in the hit sitcom, “Head of the Class,” where he played Alan Pinkard, a Ronald Reagan-loving high school student. In a January interview, uploaded on Joe Pavone’s YouTube channel, O’Dell revealed that once the show ended in 1991, he was not getting as many job offers.

“I think it came at a time where I was having a year where things were a bit slower. But to be honest with you once you starred in a series, you’re starring in a series and you’re making tons and tons of money anything in comparison after that is slower,” explained the 61-year-old.

He stated that he was approached by a producer in the mid-1990s to become an acting coach for a show. He was initially hesitant to take the opportunity because it was outside of his wheelhouse. However, he ultimately decided it would be wise to pivot his career and has professionally coached actors for the past 24 years.

O’Dell Worked as Zendaya’s Acting Coach for 10 Years

Over the years, O’Dell has worked on projects like “The George Lopez Show,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” and “Shake It Up.” While working on “Shake It Up,” he was introduced to the actress Zendaya, with who he ended up having a professional relationship for a decade. During an April 2021 interview on the “Cobra Kai Kompanion” podcast, the acting coach revealed that he “worked with her for the screen test for the ‘Greatest Showman'” and “worked with her for the screen test of ‘Dune,’” which is expected to be released later this year. 

O’Dell implied that he is no longer Zendaya’s acting coach but asserted that they have remained “really close.” He also disclosed that watching her win an Emmy in 2020 for playing Rue Bennett  in the HBO series “Euphoria” was emotional for him. 

“That was definitely a teary moment for me. I’m just so so pleased with what she’s done, how she’s handled her career, how she’s handled herself on social media. Everything that everybody sees is really truly who she is. She is definitely — there’s something about her that is so incredibly special and she’s just a force in her own way,” explained the acting coach. 

He went on to compliment his long-time student and said that she is the “entire package” in terms of looks and talent. 

“It’s really amazing to watch her do her thing and just shine, it’s incredible,” said the actor. 

O’Dell Shared a Post About Zendaya’s Emmy Win on Social Media

Following Zendaya’s Emmy win, O’Dell took to Instagram to congratulate her. In the caption of the post, he acknowledged she is a rarity. 

“In all of my years I’ve seen very few make the kind of rise that Zendaya has made to this incredible moment – winning the Emmy. I’m extremely happy and so proud of @zendaya. The women in her category were amazing but this moment is hers… youngest Best Leading Actress ever to win an Emmy. Enjoy this moment Z, it’s well deserved. Love you,” read a portion of the caption. 

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

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