Zabka at GalaxyCon Richmond in 2019
William Michael Zabka
October 20, 1965
William Michael Zabka (born October 20, 1965), also known as Billy Zabka, is an American actor, martial artist, screenwriter, director and producer. He is best known for his roles in several iconic 1980s films, such as his role as Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid (1984) and The Karate Kid Part II (1986), and the spin-off TV series Cobra Kai (2018–present). In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for co-writing and producing the short film Most.
Zabka was born in New York City, the son of Nancy (Heimert) Zabka, business liaison, producer, and production assistant, and Stanley William Zabka, a director, writer and composer. He has a brother and a sister. His father was assistant director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson during the first two years of Carson's tenure, and 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, 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.
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" 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, 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 sitcom's ninth season. 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 Premium titled Cobra Kai that debuted in 2018. He also co-executive produces the series with Ralph Macchio. The series is set 34 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.
|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||Brief cameo|
|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|
|1999||Interceptors||Dave||Alternative titles: Interceptor Force|
Predator 3: Intercepters
The Last Line of Defence
|2000||Falcon Down||Security Guard John|
|Mindstorm||Rojack||Alternative titles: Artificial Telepathy|
Project: Human Weapon
|Hyper Sonic||The Executive|
|Dark Descent||Marty (Opening credits only)||Alternative title: Descent Into Darkness|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|1996||To the Ends of Time||Alexander||Television movie|
|Python||Greg Larsen||Television movie|
|2002||Python II||Greg Larsen||Television movie, credited as Billy Zabka|
|2013||Robot Chicken||Johnny Lawrence, Colonel Steven Shay, 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 (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–present||Cobra Kai||Johnny Lawrence||Also executive producer|
|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)|
- "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 Biography (1965-)". Filmreference.com. October 20, 1965. Archived from the original on June 27, 2017. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
- "A Little About Us..." Zabka.com. March 31, 2014. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- O'Neal, Sean (June 8, 2010). "William Zabka". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 10, 2019.
- Fretts, Bruce (March 31, 2014). "Billy Zabka on How I Met Your Mother, the Zabkatage, and Sweeping the Leg". Vulture.com. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- Sellers, John (June 23, 2011). "And the Number One Dick Is...Zabka!". GQ. 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. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
- Frye, Cory (March 10, 2018). "Of Being and Johnny Lawrence (Sweep the Leg)". Albany Democrat-Herald. Corvallis Gazette-Times. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
- Strauss, Chris (October 9, 2014). "'Karate Kid' villain Billy Zabka is still best friends with the Cobra Kais". USA Today. Retrieved October 21, 2018.
- Weldon, Sarah (August 4, 2017). "The Karate Kid: Where Are They Now?". Entertainment Weekly. 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. Retrieved October 21, 2019.
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