William Zabka interview: ‘Cobra Kai’

“Trying to find your complete self, that’s what all these characters are doing,” declares “Cobra Kai” star William Zabka about the emotional impact of the Netflix comedy/drama’s fourth season. For our recent webchat, he adds, “I think that’s why the show is so relatable and why people are connecting with it. Sure it’s got the karate, it’s got the nostalgia, it’s got everything we love. It’s got these characters we’re familiar with, but it’s tapping into the human condition in a really genuine way.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“Cobra Kai,” now in post-production on its fifth season (due to premiere in September), revisits old rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) over 35 years after the original 1984 Oscar-nominated classic “The Karate Kid.”

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While the series’ first two seasons flew under the radar on YouTube’s premium service, it developed a loyal fanbase who relished reliving the decades-long feud between Johnny and Daniel as they fostered a new generation competing for All Valley karate supremacy. The series catapulted into a bona fide pop culture phenomenon when Netflix picked up the series in 2020, becoming the most-watched series on the platform. “Cobra Kai” also became a critical darling, with its third season scoring four Emmy nominations last year (including for Best Comedy Series) and with Season 4 scoring a staggering “fresh” 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, surpassing last season’s impressive 90%.

Season 4 kicked off where the third season ended, as Johnny and Daniel finally come together to take down the nefarious Kreese (Martin Kove, also reprising his role from the original film), Lawrence’s old sensei, who has taken over Johnny’s Cobra Kai dojo. Johnny’s former karate prodigy Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) has recovered from his season 3 back injury, while Robby (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s estranged son, has turned his back on Daniel, joining forces with the Kreese. The plot thickens as the regular cast expands, with new kid Kenny (Dallas Dupree Young), fan-fave duo Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) and Demetri (Gianni DeCenzo), LaRusso teenagers Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Anthony (Griffin Santopietro) and Sam’s arch-rival Tory (Peyton List) joining the fray as series regulars. Old grudges, blood, sweat, tears and an enthralling All-Valley Karate Tournament that dominates the last two episodes of the season build towards a thrilling conclusion as Kreese is shockingly usurped by an even greater threat, Kreese’s former right-hand man, the diabolical Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith, also a new series regular this season, who reprises his role from the 1989 second sequel “The Karate Kid, Part III”).

While “Cobra Kai” is at its best when it leans into its overt nostalgia, its often breathtaking martial arts and its endearingly comical moments. But this season, there were a few welcome tearjerker moments as well, which Zabka has loved being a part of, declaring that “there’s a lot of growth that happens over the season, which is a great journey for the character to play and the writers map that out so wonderfully for me.” One scene late in the season stands out, as Miguel helps a drunk Johnny inside his home, expressing what Johnny means to him. Johnny responds, slurring through tear-filled eyes, but unintentionally refers to his biological son Robby rather than the young man for whom he has become a father figure. “Johnny has that moment in the season, where he’s drunk and he says, ‘I love you Robby.’ That was super painful to read, really painful to read and even more painful to play,” Zabka shares. “The tears are real, I think, for both Xolo and I,” he admits, adding that “we both grew so much over the seasons and to read that there’s this moment of disconnect; that was just brutal.”

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UPLOADED Jun 2, 2022 11:28 am