The character Johnny Lawrence, played by William “Billy” Zabka, was introduced in the 1984 martial arts movie, “The Karate Kid.” In the film, he is presented as a violent bully with not many redeeming qualities. However, in the acclaimed series “Cobra Kai,” which premiered in 2018, the character has depth and attempts to right his wrongs. For this reason, Johnny has become one of the most popular characters in the “Karate Kid” franchise.
William Zabka Talked About “Cobra Kai” Fans in a Recent Interview
During a recent interview, uploaded on Dewey’s Movies YouTube channel, Zabka discussed how he feels about having such passionate fans, some of whom have gotten his character tattooed on them. He explained that “it’s a lot to unpack,” but he is “touched” by the response he has received after reprising the role of Johnny. The actor went on to say that he chose his profession as “an artist” because he “empathize[s] with people.”
“I’m an empathetic person, I think so,” said Zabka. “I feel like, you know, playing this character and giving him a heart and then seeing it resonate and bounce and other people connecting to that, um, and sending it back with tattoos and gifts and things saying ‘Quiet’ and ‘send it to the internet’ and that it’s — there’s nothing cooler than that.”
The 55-year-old went on to say that he “respect[s] [his] fans” and appreciates the messages he receives about how Johnny inspired them to improve their lives. He also acknowledged the show’s writers deserve credit for creating such a beloved character. Zabka then explained that he views himself as “the instrument that the notes are being played through.”
“I’m thrilled by it and I love that it’s inspiring people, touching people, making them feel tough, making them feel like they can challenge themselves, make themselves better,” said the actor.
William Zabka Did Not Always Have the Best Fan Experiences
Zabka has not always had positive fan experiences. During a 2019 People Now interview, the actor revealed that he had an unpleasant time at Disneyland because of “Karate Kid” fans. He explained that he went to the theme park shortly after the original film premiered.
“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,’” recalled the actor.
During a recent interview on the WTF with Marc Maron Podcast, Zabka also revealed some “Karate Kid” fans did not have the best reaction to him at conventions before “Cobra Kai” became a hit.
“I was the table that the dads would walk by — they would walk up and go, ‘I just want my kid to meet you. This guy was the biggest a******. Nice to meet you.’ And they would walk away,” said Zabka.
He clarified that people now speak to him more respectfully at fan events.
“Now, I have people coming up and going, ‘Hey, I love you on the show. Johnny is cool now, somehow he’s cool,’” said the actor.
To see more of Zabka, check out the first three seasons of “Cobra Kai,” available to stream on Netflix.
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