How William Zabka Feels About Playing a Character Stuck in the Past

William Zabka

Getty William Zabka strikes a pose at the premiere of "Where Hope Grows" in 2015.

On the acclaimed series “Cobra Kai,” William “Billy” Zabka plays Johnny Lawrence, a former high school bully who has not matured since his heyday in the 1980s. He is rarely politically correct and has a difficult time using technology. In a January interview with Entertainment Weekly, Xolo Maridueña, who portrays Johnny’s karate student Miguel Diaz, revealed that Zabka “is the complete opposite of” his Coors Banquet-loving character. The 20-year-old also suggested that Zabka is uncomfortable saying some of Johnny’s offensive lines. 

William Zabka Has Deemed Johnny To Be “a Caveman”

However, in a June interview with Deadline, alongside his “Cobra Kai” co-star Ralph Macchio, Zabka revealed he enjoyed the fact that Johnny is “very much a caveman and an artifact of the ’80s.” He then referenced a scene from the show’s first season, wherein his character explains why Aisha (Nichole Brown) can not join his dojo. 

“One of my favorite scenes is when Aisha (Nichole Brown) walks into the dojo in Season 1 and says, ‘I’m here to join karate.’ I reply, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t accept girls in the dojo.’ And she says, ‘Why?’ I say, ‘Same reason why there’s no women in the army, it doesn’t make sense, they have tiny hollow bones.’ Those lines are just so juicy to play and when you play it straight, it’s just hysterical,” said Zabka. 

 The 55-year-old went on to say that he “love[s] playing that trajectory of a guy that’s learning as he’s going.”

While speaking to Deadline, Macchio also stated that he is a fan of Johnny’s overall ignorance. The 59-year-old explained that it makes for some highly comedic moments, especially when Johnny is interacting with Daniel LaRusso, who is much more socially aware. The actor told the publication: 

[T]he thing that I love so much is that it comes up clueless and innocent because he is in that time zone in his mind. And it logically makes sense from Billy’s perspective. When LaRusso is in witness of this, he has to then navigate through the ridiculousness. So therein lies that element of comedy, where once again, don’t shine a light on the Johnny Lawrence of it all, but play the flip reaction of the world reacting to him. It really is well executed.

William Zabka Shared Similar Comments During a January Interview

Zabka made similar comments about Johnny during a January 2021 interview with Men’s Health. The actor again described him as “a caveman in a sense” and explained that while he is “a little brazen … his intentions are all good.” He also stated that he found the martial arts teacher’s inability to understand technology to be “refreshing.” 

“[W]e’re all so sucked into the moments in the phone, the news cycles and the feeds, and everybody’s thoughts coming at us at the same time from every angle, and you just can’t process it,” said the father-of-two. “There’s something refreshing about somebody that has nothing to do with that and is just about helping a kid, opening a dojo, fixing a pipe, just trying to make things work.”

 To see more of Zabka, check out the first three seasons of “Cobra Kai,” available to stream on Netflix. 

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