Why William Zabka Thinks Johnny & Daniel Are Both Stuck in the Past

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio Comic-Con

Getty William Zabka and Ralph Macchio speak at the 2019 Comic-Con in San Diego.

The acclaimed series “Cobra Kai” focuses on the lives of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William “Billy” Zabka). The characters were introduced in the 1984 martial arts film, “The Karate Kid.” In the movie, Johnny, who takes lessons at the Cobra Kai dojo, bullies Daniel because he is romantically interested in his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). To combat this harassment, Daniel trains with his apartment maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), who happens to be a skilled martial artist. The New Jersey native and Johnny face off during the 1984 All Valley Tournament, and against the odds, Daniel wins the championship. 


William Zabka Revealed That He Believes Both Daniel & Johnny Have Not Moved on From the Past

In “Cobra Kai,” it is clear that Johnny is fixated on his glory days in the 1980s. He also has a difficult time understanding the modern world, in terms of both technology and being politically correct. During a June interview on SiriusXM Faction Talk’s “The Jim Norton & Sam Roberts Show,” William Zabka revealed that he believes his character’s rival, Daniel LaRusso, has also not moved on from the past. He explained that “it’s arrested development for both of them in different directions.” The actor acknowledged that Daniel is more financially “successful” than Johnny, as he owns the car dealership, The LaRusso Auto Group. However, the business’s karate-themed commercials and billboards indicate that Daniel has a fixation with his 1984 All Valley win. 

“Karate in the valley in ‘The Karate Kid’ is like football in Texas. It’s like the big stage. This is like the biggest humiliation and the biggest victory in the Valley. Here’s Daniel LaRusso still carrying his torch, putting his kicks up with his billboards on the side of the street and Johnny Lawrence having to deal with that every day, driving around and being reminded. I mean that salt put in his wound every day for these last years and do it as best to just kind of stay under the radar,” explained the actor. 

Zabka went on to say that Johnny did not intend to reinstate his rivalry with Daniel and had been trying to avoid him. The 55-year-old referenced the scene in season 1, episode 1, where “he goes to the dealership the first time to pick up his car which got taken there by accident.” When Daniel recognizes his high school bully, he brings up the fact he beat him at the All Valley Tournament over 30 years ago. 

“[Johnny] wants to get his car and get the heck out. And there’s LaRusso, ‘Hey Johnny, how you doing? Good to see you, man. I kicked your a** in high school in front of everybody.’ And now what’s he’s going to do. And then he hands him a bonsai tree on the way out the door,” said the actor. 

Zabka explained that the tree was “the final straw” for Johnny and was the catalyst for him to start his own dojo under the Cobra Kai name. The actor also suggested that Daniel has not lived up to his potential and could have had a different career path. 

“I mean, how did he end up being a car salesman? The guy could have gone on to real greatness. You know, if he’s selling cars — that’s the one thing — he knew two things in his youth. He knew how to wax a car and he knew how to throw a kick, and he put those two together,” said the actor with a laugh.


William Zabka Shared Information About “Cobra Kai” Season 4 in a Separate Interview

The upcoming fourth season of “Cobra Kai” officially finished filming in April and is expected to be released in late 2021. While Zabka did not share any spoilers while speaking on “The Jim Norton & Sam Roberts Show,” he did share some information about season 4 during a recent upload on Dewey’s Movie YouTube channel. He cautioned that fans should “expect the unexpected.” 

“The writers will keep you on your toes. They keep me on my toes as an actor. Every time I turn the page, you know, I have a little idea of where the season is going. I get my arc and I know one to 10 but all the micro-turns and all the surprises in there, they keep to [themselves] a couple weeks before we shoot,” said Zabka.

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