‘Cobra Kai’ Star William Zabka Says Season 3 Gave Johnny Lawrence a ‘New Purpose’

Cobra Kai made a hero out of Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), or an antihero at least. The bully from The Karate Kid reopened Cobra Kai to teach a new generation Karate. It hasn’t all gone according to plan, and the show’s third season sees Johnny trying to make things right.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the first two seasons of Cobra Kai.]

Xolo Maridueña and William Zabka
William Zabka and Xolo Maridueña | Netflix

Zabka spoke with reporters in a Zoom roundtable on Dec. 11 about Johnny’s journey in season 3. Cobra Kai Season 3 is now available on Netflix. 

William Zabka on the metaphorical leg sweep ‘Cobra Kai’ dealt Johnny 

Johnny experienced a bittersweet victory in season 1 with his student, Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) winning the All Valley Karate Tournament by exploiting his opponent’s weakness. By the end of season 2, John Kreese (Martin Kove) had returned and stolen Cobra Kai out from under Johnny.

Karate Kid rivals Ralph Macchio and William Zabka
L-R: Ralph Macchio and William Zabka | Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

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“He’s definitely on his journey,” Zabka said. “End of season 2 he had it all ripped away from him. He had it all almost, led with his heart and had the rug pulled out from under him with Kreese taking over the dojo and the incident with his son injuring his student and his other son in a way. So yeah, there’s only up to go from there.”

‘Cobra Kai’ Season 3 forces Johnny to re-evaluate things

Cobra Kai gets even more complicated. Miguel’s opponent is Robby (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s son. When Johnny starts teaching his students about the benefits of mercy, Miguel shows Robby mercy in a street fight. Robby takes advantage of it and injures Miguel.

Cobra Kai: Miguel and Johnny
William Zabka (top) and Xolo Maridueña (bottom) | Curtis Bonds/Netflix

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“Johnny feels responsible for almost all of it,” Zabka said. “He was not there for Robby and he was a failed father and he feels a tremendous amount of guilt for that and burden. As far as teaching Miguel, he feels maybe he taught him wrong to show mercy now. He’s questioning a lot of things. Through a series of events he gets himself together and pushes forward.”

William Zabka is optimistic for Johnny 

Things may be bad for Johnny when season 3 of Cobra Kai begins. 

“I hope that he finds his balance but he’s got a lot of things to work out,” Zabka said. “There are a lot of people in his way, characters in his way, especially Kreese who is like his father who betrayed him and then he gave him a second chance and then he betrayed him again.”

William Zabka and Xolo Mariduena in Cobra Kai
L-R: Xolo Maridueña and William Zabka | Curtis Bonds/Netflix

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This actually provides Johnny the motivation he needs to make things right, Zabka said.

“That’s actually really given Johnny a new wind in his sails and a new purpose because now he has to rescue those kids who Kreese has swooped from under him and filling their heads with a bunch of garbage as far as Johnny’s concerned,” Zabka said. “Now Johnny’s going to find a way to correct that. That’s an exciting journey to be on and to play as an actor. I love where season 3 lands and what’s coming next.”