William Zabka

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William Zabka
William Zabka by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Zabka in 2016
Born William Michael Zabka
(1965-10-20) October 20, 1965 (age 52)
New York City, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Actor, producer, screenwriter, martial artist
Years active 1983–present
Spouse(s) Stacie Zabka (2008–present)

William Michael Zabka (born October 20, 1965) is an American actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He is best known for his roles in several iconic 1980s films, such as his role as Johnny Lawrence in 1984's The Karate Kid.[1] In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing and producing the film Most.

Early life[edit]

Zabka was born in New York City, the son of Nancy (Heimert), a business liaison, producer, and production assistant, and Stanley William Zabka, a director, writer, and composer.[2] His father, who was assistant director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson during the first two years of Carson's tenure, has worked as production manager on a number of motion pictures, including the Chuck Norris vehicle Forced Vengeance. Zabka grew up with two siblings.[citation needed]


Zabka's breakout acting role came in his first movie, 1984's The Karate Kid. He played Johnny Lawrence, the main antagonist to the title character played by Ralph Macchio. He had no previous martial arts experience 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 later earned a black belt.[1]

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. He later tried to step away from playing the 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, shot on location in the Czech Republic and Poland. Most (aka The Bridge) 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.[citation needed]

In 2007, Zabka directed and starred in a music video for the band No More Kings entitled "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". That same year, Zabka made a cameo appearance in the film Hot Tub Time Machine. In 2013, Zabka, along with 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 show's ninth season. Zabka is currently directing commercials for clients including Little Tikes and Verizon at Heresy in Venice, California.[3]

On August 4, 2017 it was announced that Zabka will reprise his role as Johnny Lawrence in a 30-minute, 10 part Karate Kid revival series for YouTube Red titled Cobra Kai that is set to debut in 2018. He will also co-executive produce the series with Ralph Macchio. The series is set 30 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament and revolves around a down and out Johnny who, seeking redemption, reopens the infamous Cobra Kai dojo. It reignites his rivalry with a now-successful Daniel, who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi who has since passed away.[4]


Year Film Role Notes
1984 The Karate Kid Johnny Lawrence
1985 Just One of the Guys Greg Tolan
National Lampoon's European Vacation Jack
1986 Back to School Chas Osborne
The Karate Kid Part II Johnny Lawrence
1988 A Tiger's Tale Randy
1991 For Parents Only Ted Alternative title: Mean Parents Suck
1992 Shootfighter: Fight to the Death Ruben Alternative title: Shootfighter
1994 Unlawful Passage Howie
1995 Shootfighter II Ruben
The Power Within Raymond Vonn Alternative title: Power Man
1997 High Voltage Bulldog
1999 Interceptors Dave Alternative titles: Interceptor Force
Predator 3: Intercepters
The Last Line of Defence
2000 Mindstorm Rojack Alternative titles: Artificial Telepathy
Project: Human Weapon
Falcon Down Security Guard John
2001 Ablaze Curt Peters
2002 Gale Force Rance
Hyper Sonic The Executive
Landspeed Bob Bailey
Dark Descent Marty (Opening credits only) Alternative title: Descent Into Darkness
Antibody Otto Emmerick
2003 Most
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
2008 The Man in the Silo Kevin
2010 Hot Tub Time Machine Rick Steelman
2015 Where Hope Grows Milton Malcolm
Year Title Role Notes
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
1996 To the Ends of Time Alexander Television movie
2000 Epoch Joe Television movie
Python Greg Larsen Television movie
2002 Python II Greg Larsen Television movie, credited as Billy Zabka
2013–2014 How I Met Your Mother Clown/Himself Guest Star (Season 8), Recurring Role (Season 9)
2014 Psych Coach Bagg Guest (Season 8)
2015 Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street Sensei Jeff Guest, Season 2, Episode 9, "Stanley and the Tattoo of Tall Tales"
2018 Cobra Kai Johnny Lawrence Zabka will star and co-executive produce television series of The Karate Kid

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Film Result
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 Short Film, Live Action Most (shared with Bobby Garabedian)


External links[edit]