William Michael Zabka (//; born October 20, 1965) is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II (1986) and the TV series Cobra Kai (2018–present). In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing and producing the short film Most.
William Michael Zabka
October 20, 1965
|Education||California State University, Northridge (withdrew)|
Zabka was born in New York City, the son of Nancy, a business liaison, producer, and production assistant, and Stan Zabka, a director, writer and composer. He has a brother and a sister. His father was born in Des Moines, Iowa of Czech descent. He worked as production manager on a number of motion pictures, including the Chuck Norris film Forced Vengeance (1982).
Zabka's breakout acting role came in his first movie, The Karate Kid (1984). He played Johnny Lawrence, the main antagonist to the title character and protagonist played by Ralph Macchio. He had no training in karate at the time but was an accomplished wrestler. His participation in the film inspired him to learn the martial art of Tang Soo Do and he later earned a second-degree green belt.
During the 1980s, Zabka appeared in the comedy movies Just One of the Guys (1985) and Back to School (1986). Zabka also co-starred on the CBS television series The Equalizer as the son of the title character (1986–89). He also played Jack, Audrey's jock boyfriend, in National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985). He later tried to step away from playing the class bully character. He mentioned in an interview how he was sometimes hassled in public by random people because of the villainous characters he was best known for.
During the 1990s and 2000s, he acted mostly in independent films while studying to be a filmmaker. In 2003, he wrote and produced the short film Most (aka The Bridge) shot on location in the Czech Republic and Poland. Most had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2003 and won numerous awards at prestigious film festivals, including Best of Festival at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films in 2003. In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Most in the Live Action Short Film category.
In 2007, Zabka directed and starred in a music video for the band No More Kings' song, "Sweep the Leg". The video stars Zabka as a caricature of himself, living in a trailer in the desert and obsessed with his role in The Karate Kid. The video includes cameos by several of the original Karate Kid cast members, including Martin Kove and Ralph Macchio.
In 2010, Zabka directed Rascal Flatts in their music video for the song "Why Wait" and also directed the video for their 2017 hit "Yours If You Want It". Also in 2010, Zabka made a cameo appearance in the comedy movie Hot Tub Time Machine.
In 2013, Zabka and Macchio guest starred in the season 8 episode of How I Met Your Mother, "The Bro Mitzvah". Zabka also appeared in several episodes of the sitcom's ninth season, playing a fictional version of himself. Zabka also directed commercials for clients including Little Tikes and Verizon at Heresy in Venice, California.
On August 4, 2017, it was announced that Zabka would reprise his role as Johnny Lawrence in a 10-episode Karate Kid revival series for YouTube Red titled Cobra Kai that debuted in 2018. He also co-executive produces the series with Ralph Macchio. The series begins 33 years after the events of the first film, and revolves around a down and out Johnny who, seeking to rebuild his life, reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. It reignites his rivalry with a now-successful Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his now-deceased mentor, Mr. Miyagi.
He married Stacie Zabka in 2008 and they have two children.
|1984||The Karate Kid||Johnny Lawrence|
|1985||Just One of the Guys||Greg Tolan|
|National Lampoon's European Vacation||Jack|
|1986||The Karate Kid Part II||Johnny Lawrence||Cameo|
|Back to School||Chas Osborne|
|Dreams of Gold: The Mel Fisher Story||Kim Fisher||TV movie|
|1988||A Tiger's Tale||Randy|
|1989||The Karate Kid Part III||Johnny Lawrence||Archive footage|
|1991||For Parents Only||Ted||Alternative title: Mean Parents Suck|
|1992||Shootfighter: Fight to the Death||Ruben||Alternative title: Shootfighter|
|The Power Within||Raymond Vonn||Alternative title: Power Man|
|1996||To the Ends of Time||Alexander|
|1999||Interceptors||Dave||Alternative titles: Interceptor Force|
Predator 3: Intercepters
The Last Line of Defence
|Python||Greg Larsen||Television movie|
|Falcon Down||Security Guard John|
|Mindstorm||Rojack||Alternative titles: Artificial Telepathy|
Project: Human Weapon
|Python II||Greg Larsen||Television movie, credited as Billy Zabka|
|Hyper Sonic||The Executive|
|Dark Descent||Marty (Opening credits only)||Alternative title: Descent Into Darkness|
|Alternative title: The Bridge, screenwriter & producer|
|2004||Roomies||Slick Salesman||Alternative title: Wild Roomies|
|2007||Smiley Face||Prison guard|
|Cake: A Wedding Story||Sam||Alternative title: Cake: A Wedding Comedy|
|Starting from Scratch||Bill Bowman|
|2010||Hot Tub Time Machine||Rick Steelman|
|Mean Parents Suck||Detective Ted Clement|
|2014||Where Hope Grows||Milton Malcolm|
|2015||The Dog Who Saved Summer||Officer Johnny & Apollo (Voice)||Dual Role|
|2016||The Man in the Silo||Kevin|
|1983||The Greatest American Hero||Clarence Mortner Jr.||1 episode|
|1984||Gimme a Break!||Jeffery||1 episode|
|CBS Schoolbreak Special||Rick Peterson||1 episode|
|1984–1985||E/R||Druggie Kid/Thief||1 episode|
|1985–1989||The Equalizer||Scott McCall||9 episodes|
|2013||Robot Chicken||Johnny Lawrence, Gibby, American Werewolf (voice)||Guest, season 6, episode 15, "Caffeine-Induced Aneurysm"|
|2013–2014||How I Met Your Mother||Clown/himself||Guest star (Season 8), recurring role (Season 9)|
|2014||Psych||Coach Bagg||Guest star: A Nightmare on State Street|
|2015||Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street||Sensei Jeff||Guest, season 2, episode 9, "Stanley and the Tattoo of Tall Tales"|
|2018–present||Cobra Kai||Johnny Lawrence||Main role, also executive producer|
|2020||Cobra Kai: The Karate Kid Saga Continues||Johnny Lawrence (voice)|
|2022||Cobra Kai 2: Dojos Rising||Johnny Lawrence (voice)|
|1985||Young Artist Award||Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama||The Karate Kid||Nominated|
|2004||Academy Awards||Best Live Action Short Film||Most (shared with Bobby Garabedian)|
- Hubbard, Linda S.; Steen, Sara J. (1989). "Zabka, William". In Hubbard, Linda S.; O'Donnell, Owen (eds.). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Cengage Gale. p. 467. ISBN 9780810320703. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
Born October 20 in New York, NY; son of Stan Zabka (assistant director); mother, a production assistant
- Hornik, Susan (April 11, 2019). "How Karate Training Helped Cobra Kai's William Zabka Get Back in Fighting Shape at 53". Men's Health. Archived from the original on April 14, 2019. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
...at age 53 [as of April 2019]
- "Sweep the Leg! Interview with the real Johnny, William Zabka". Kung Fu Magazine. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
- "William Zabka". IMDb. Retrieved March 10, 2023.
- "William Zabka Biography (1965-)". Filmreference.com. October 20, 1965. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
- Rechcigl, Miloslav Jr. (November 10, 2016). Encyclopedia of Bohemian and Czech-American Biography. ISBN 9781524620691. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved November 30, 2021.
- "A Little About Us..." Zabka.com. March 31, 2014. Archived from the original on May 7, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
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- Fretts, Bruce (March 31, 2014). "Billy Zabka on How I Met Your Mother, the Zabkatage, and Sweeping the Leg". Vulture.com. Archived from the original on September 16, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- Sellers, John (June 23, 2011). "And the Number One Dick Is...Zabka!". GQ. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- Goldberg, Lesley (August 4, 2017). "'Karate Kid' TV Sequel, Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, a Go at YouTube Red (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on June 28, 2019. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- Anagnoson, Alex (December 14, 2021). "WATCH: 'Cobra Kai' Cast Starred in a 2007 Music Video". Heavy. Archived from the original on October 30, 2022. Retrieved October 20, 2022.
- on YouTube
- Strauss, Chris (October 9, 2014). "'Karate Kid' villain Billy Zabka is still best friends with the Cobra Kais". USA Today. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
- Weldon, Sarah (August 4, 2017). "The Karate Kid: Where Are They Now?". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Goldberg, Lesley (August 4, 2017). "'Karate Kid' TV Sequel, Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, a Go at YouTube Red". MSN. Microsoft. Archived from the original on March 22, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
- Topel, Fred (April 27, 2019). "'Cobra Kai' Season 2: About That 'Karate Kid' Reunion in Episode 6…". /Film. Archived from the original on May 12, 2021. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
- Tauber, Michelle (January 11, 2021). "Karate Kid Bully William Zabka Opens Up About His Transformation to Hero in Cobra Kai". People. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved February 10, 2021.