William Michael Zabka, born October 20, 1965, is an American actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He’s best known for his roles in several iconic 1980s movies, 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 movie Most.
2. He was born in New York City, the son of Nancy, a business liaison, producer and production assistant, and Stanley William Zabka, a director, writer and composer.
3. His father, Stan Zabka, was assistant director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson during the first two years of Carson’s tenure, and has worked as production manager on a number of motion pictures, including the Chuck Norris movie Forced Vengeance.
4. Zabka’s breakout acting role came in his first movie, 1984’s The Karate Kid, where he played Johnny Lawrence, the main antagonist to the title character played by Ralph Macchio.
5. Zabka had no previous martial arts experience when he was filming The Karate Kid, but he was an accomplished wrestler.
6. His participation in The Karate Kid inspired him to learn the martial art of Tang Soo Do and later earned a black belt.
7. His paternal grandfather was Czech. However, his paternal grandmother was born in Nebraska, to Czech parents.
8. He has two siblings, brother Guy and sister Judy. Both brothers are accomplished singers, musicians and songwriters.
9. Zabka speaks Czech fluently.
10. During the 1980s, he appeared in the comedy movies Just One of the Guys and Back to School.
11. Zabka co-starred on the CBS television series The Equalizer as the son of the title character.
12. He played Jack, Audrey’s jock boyfriend, in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
13. In the late 1980s, he 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.
14. During the 1990s and 2000s, he acted mostly in independent movies while studying to be a filmmaker.
15. In 2003, he wrote and produced the short film Most, shot on location in the Czech Republic and Poland.
16. Zabka’s movie, Most, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2003 and won many awards at other prestigious film festivals, including Best of Festival at the Palm Springs International Festive of Short Films in 2003.
17. In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Most in the Live Action Short film category.
18. In 2007, he 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.
19. In 2010, Zabka directed Rascal Flatts in their music video for the song “Why Wait.”
20. In 2010, he made a cameo appearance in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine.
21. In 2013, Zabka, along with Ralph Macchio, guest starred in the season 8 episode of How I Met Your Mother called “The Bro Mitzvah.”
22. Zabka directed commercials for clients including Little Tikes and Verizon at Heresy in Venice, California.
23. 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.
24. The YouTube Red revival series of The Karate Kid 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.
25. Prior to The Karate Kid, Zabka did commercials and had always been cast as the all-American nice guy.