In the 1984 martial arts film The Karate Kid, William Zabka portrayed Johnny Lawrence, a senior at West Valley High School. Throughout the movie, the Cobra Kai team member antagonizes Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), mainly for having a romantic interest in his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). As fans of the film franchise are aware, the teenagers face off during the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, and Daniel is named that year’s champion. Johnny is featured toward the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II, where John Kreese (Martin Kove) physically assaults him.
Since its premiere in 2018, Zabka has played Johnny in the acclaimed series Cobra Kai. The show finds the character living in Reseda, jobless, and barely having a relationship with his son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan). He eventually starts his dojo, also named Cobra Kai, and his rivalry with Daniel continues.
Zabka Discussed Johnny Not Being in the ‘Karate Kid’ Sequels
While Johnny is a pivotal character in both The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, he is noticeably absent from The Karate Kid Part III, which was released in 1989. During a March 2019 interview with Screen Rant, Zabka addressed the fact that his character was barely in The Karate Kid Part II and did not appear in the third installment of the film franchise.
He noted that he was unsure where Johnny was when the events of the sequels took place.
“So where did he go? Yeah, the writer’s fault. They locked him up in a cage and they brought him out 35 years later. I never really, I never really thought about where he went from there,” explained the actor.
Zabka then referred to the plot of The Karate Kid Part II, where Daniel and Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) travel to Okinawa, Japan.
“I know he didn’t go to Okinawa. Yeah I would have loved to [go] to Hawaii [where the movie was filmed],” said the actor.
He revealed that he almost returned as Johnny in the third film. However, the character was replaced by professional martial artist Mike Barnes, played by Sean Kanan.
“I [kept] scheduling it. Other reasons didn’t work out. So they created a Mike Barnes… which was fine with me, you know, I’ve got to be part of the original one,” said the father-of-two.
He noted that the film “was always for [him] hard to watch,” and seemed to be stating that it lacked “originality.”
Ralph Macchio Has Also Shared His Opinion About ‘The Karate Kid Part III’
Zabka is not the only Cobra Kai cast member who has talked about having issues with The Karate Kid Part III. In a January interview on the Sway podcast, Ralph Macchio asserted that he did not like the movie.
“It has nothing to do with the actors involved,” clarified the 59-year-old.
He then explained his reasoning for not being a fan of the film.
“I just felt for the LaRusso character he never went forward. It felt like we were redoing the first movie in a cartoon kind of a sense without the heart and soul,” noted the father-of-two.
To see more of Zabka and Macchio, be sure to watch Cobra Kai, available on Netflix.