After years of his Karate Kid and Cobra Kai character Johnny Lawrence being misunderstood, William “Billy” Zabka seems pleased that the Eagle Fang owner is finally getting some positive recognition. In a January 2021 interview with the Associated Press, the actor commented on fans’ recent perspective of the character.
“For 35 some years they hated Johnny Lawrence or they loved to hateJohnny Lawrence or a sliver of the fans saw the good in Johnny Lawrence and gave him a break,” explained the 55-year-old. “But yeah, the fact that people are loving Johnny Lawrence and that he’s entertaining them and they’re on the ride with Johnny and rooting him on it feels incredible, man. It feels really really incredible.”
Zabka Has Previously Spoken About ‘Cobra Kai’ Fans
This is not the first time that Zabka has publicly spoken about fans of the Karate Kid franchise. In March 2019, he was interviewed by Screen Rant in celebration of The Karate Kid’s 35th anniversary. In the interview, he noted that when he was younger, he “kinda saw [himself] more as a comedic actor” but was “recognized as this kind of tough guy” following the film’s release. He noted that “it took a minute to kind of absorb that.”
His more recent interactions, however, have been slightly different. He explained he is approached in public by fans of all ages, stating,
So the early days when that first happened, it was a — it was a life altering experience. But I think, you know, later in years is as time’s gone by and you know, when we go out and do a show or I meet, I meet families somewhere to a restaurant or whatever. Like you see these kids that are six, seven, 10 and their grandparents all sharing, you know, a love for the film. It’s, that’s the stuff, that’s just amazing. It’s mind blowing to see that the cell was transcended so many generations and touched so many people.
In 2019, Zabka Talked About a Fan Experience at Disneyland
Zabka, however, has also talked about having a somewhat negative interaction with Karate Kid fans. During an April 2019 PEOPLE Now interview, alongside his Cobra Kai co-star Ralph Macchio, he mentioned an intense experience while at Disneyland around the time that the first installment of the film franchise was released.
“I think back in the day I was at Disneyland that was the day that it dawned on me that this movie got big and I was with a bunch of my buddies,” revealed the actor. “I got surrounded. Someone had said there’s the guy from Karate Kid, and it turned into one of those things they had to take me out of Disneyland, you know. And I was like, ‘this is weird.’ It was just that one moment.”
Macchio also chimed in to share his own memorable fan story.
“This was maybe ’86 or ’87 I was on a small island off of Anguilla in the Caribbean. There’s no electricity on the island and there was just like huts… Kids were doing the crane kick. Like how do you know what that is? There’s no television here. That was pretty amazing,” said the actor.
To see more of Zabka, be sure to watch Cobra Kai Season 3, available on Netflix.