William Zabka Interview: Cobra Kai S4
Screen Rant interviews Cobra Kai star and executive producer William Zabka about Johnny's season 4 journey and working with Daniel to beat Cobra Kai.
In Cobra Kai season 4, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) teams up with his lifelong rival, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), to lead their dojos against John Kreese (Martin Kove) and Cobra Kai. But can Johnny and Daniel actually work together and train their students in order to defeat Cobra Kai in the All Valley Karate tournament? Cobra Kai season 4 brings the show’s multiple storylines and character relationships to a head as a dangerous new enemy, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffth), the villain from The Karate Kid Part III, joins Kreese and Cobra Kai.
Screen Rant spoke to Cobra Kai’s star and executive producer, William Zabka, while he was on set filming the finale of Cobra Kai season 5. In our spoiler-free interview, we discussed Johnny’s season 4 journey with Miguel, Daniel, and Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser), Johnny meeting Terry Silver for the first time, season 4’s epic All Valley tournament, the new young characters joining Cobra Kai in season 4, and a little tease of what’s to come in Cobra Kai season 5.
Screen Rant: Cobra Kai season 3 ended with a moment Karate Kid movie fans like me have waited our whole lives for: Johnny and Daniel teaming up. But Johnny and Daniel as friends… how will that work?
William Zabka: (laughs) Well, as you were pleasantly surprised by the ending of season 3, so was I. When Johnny and Daniel bow to each other, it put them on the same page having a common foe in Kreese and Cobra Kai. It was a very cathartic and great moment of relief that they put their differences aside enough to come together. However, now they come into season 4 and they’re two completely different characters with two different life experiences and two different styles. We’ll see how it goes moving forward. They have a common enemy but they have a long way to go.
In the trailer for season 4, we saw Johnny train Daniel and vice versa. How would you say Johnny took to learning Miyagi-Do karate? Wax on, wax off.
William Zabka: Reluctantly, at first. I think he’s just appeasing Daniel so he can get his shot at making him walk on hot coals and take some baseballs to the face. Clearly, he has something to learn, and Johnny’s open to learning [Miyagi-Do], and looking for common ground.
As an actor, to get to play Johnny waxing cars and painting fences having been in the [The Karate Kid] movie, it was very surreal and awesome to be in the Miyagi backyard standing in a koi pond doing katas from Okinawa. It was great. So Johnny takes to it well, but it’s all defense. As far as Johnny goes, the best defense is more offense so he can’t wait to get to him training Daniel. But definitely, lessons learned along the way and we’ll see where it goes for Daniel when Johnny gets his hands on him.
Since Daniel and Johnny combined dojos, they also get to work with each other’s students. Can you tease a little bit about Johnny working with Daniel’s daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) and also Daniel working with Miguel (Xolo Maridueña)?
William Zabka: I love that Sam and Johnny’s relationship is progressing. As far as Johnny knows, Sam is the instigator of this whole thing. If she wasn’t in the backseat of the car that slammed into the Firebird that he had in season 1, you know, she started this whole thing. I love that Johnny and Sam get some time together. Johnny has a lot to bring to the table for Sam and Daniel has a lot to bring for Miguel. We’ll see how that trade-off and those relationships grow,
And I love Mary Mouser. She’s just incredible and she’s progressed so much as a martial artist on the show. She came in knowing nothing in season 1 and she’s so devoted, she’s doing katas between takes. I love her, I love working with her. And I love the relationship Johnny develops with her, and they feed off each other.
Cobra Kai season 4 is bringing in Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). As a fan of the movies, it’s even cooler because Johnny and Terry Silver never met before. Johnny even said he doesn’t know who Terry is when he tried to get Cobra Kai reinstated in the All Valley in season 1. Are Johnny and Terry finally gonna cross paths?
William Zabka: Oh yeah, indeed. Well, you see it in the trailer when Terry shows up in the Miyagi-Do backyard. Johnny’s seeing this guy for the first time in his life. As far as Johnny knows, this is just a tall guy with a ponytail and no threat to him at all. But Daniel knows better. Daniel knows this guy is full of danger and he panics. He hits the panic button. I love that Johnny doesn’t know who this guy is and how he’s gonna affect his life. It’s a cool thing.
I love working with Thomas. I’d never met him before when he came on set. He was in Karate Kid III and I was a fan of his. He’s a super-talented artist and a great guy. We hit it off instantly and we were having a good time together.
Johnny and Miguel, since day one, have been the cornerstone of the show I think. But Johnny and Miguel’s mom are getting in a relationship so how will that change their dynamic in season 4?
William Zabka: That’s yet to be seen but Johnny’s relationship with Carmen [Vanessa Rubio] is progressing for better or worse. Johnny wants to hang onto his relationship with Miguel but you see a little bit in the trailer that Miguel’s bonding with Daniel, which Johnny may have a problem with. But that’s his son. The core of who Johnny is is he wants to be a dad to Robby [Tanner Buchanan], he wants to be a good father figure, and he wants to be a good mentor. And he’s gonna fight for that. Miguel has Johnny’s heart and I love that relationship. It’s a great journey, where they go.
Johnny is also obviously hurting over the fact that Robby turned to Kreese and Cobra Kai. Can you talk a little about Johnny and Robby going into season 4?
William Zabka: Only that we’re at a point in their relationship where Robby has completely turned his back on his dad and he’s turned to the dark side. Johnny has to let him go and experience what’s that about. He loves his son, he wishes his son would listen to his advice but it’s like talking to a brick wall. Kids grow up and they go their own way, and there’s a letting go point. But Johnny would like nothing more than a relationship with his son. It’s a painful journey for Johnny. He wants his son back, but is he gonna get him? We’ll see.
Cobra Kai season 4 is building to the All Valley tournament and the stakes are the highest ever. This is also the fourth All Valley in the whole franchise, after the movies and season 1. What can we expect from season 4’s All Valley and what are Eagle Fang’s chances?
William Zabka: What can we expect? I’ll tell you this: We can expect some incredible martial arts and great stunt fighting, and a wicked tournament. As far as Eagle Fang, Miyagi-Do, and Cobra Kai go, you’ll have to see. But the stakes are higher. The tournament has evolved. As the show and the characters have evolved, so has the All Valley tournament. It’s brand new. There are a lot of new elements involved and it’s as fun as ever.
I also love the new characters [Cobra Kai] season 4 brought in. You gotta keep the blood fresh. Oona O’Brien as Devon Lee was great. She’s a young actress and she’s just fantastic. I don’t think she’d done much and had a lot of experience but she fit right in. She came in a super fan of the show, a super fan of Johnny’s. We just bonded instantly. [Devon] is in many ways a Miguel figure, in a way, for Johnny. She’s a protege. Devon’s great. It’s a lot of fun what’s coming, man. I can’t wait for the fans to see it.
You guys are wrapping up season 5 now, right? Congratulations.
William Zabka: Thank you. We’re shooting the climax of season 5 right now after three months of being in the trenches. I’m so wrapped up in what’s going on right now that’s so far down the road from what I’m talking about [in season 4]. I can just tell you this: [season 5] is maybe my favorite season. It’s even more! It’s a lot of fun. But season 4 is a great ride and so satisfying. My hat’s off to the writers and the creative team for doing such great work. I’m really proud to be a part of it.