Karate Kid Bully William Zabka Opens Up About His Transformation to Hero in Cobra Kai
Season 3 of Cobra Kai is streaming on Netflix
William Zabka notoriously "swept the leg" as teen bully Johnny Lawrence in 1984's Karate Kid — and for more than three decades, fans didn't let him forget it.
"For years I had dads dragging their kids over to meet me just to point out the biggest bully on the planet," he tells PEOPLE.
But the script is flipped in Cobra Kai, the hit Netflix series that sees both Zabka, 55, and Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio, 59, reprise their roles from the original film. The show launched its third season on Jan. 1, and Zabka has been savoring Johnny's comeback, as the character is now working to redeem himself as a karate mentor to a group of underdog teens.
"To have people rooting for my character, for me to feel that, is something I've never experienced," says the New York City-raised actor. "It's remarkable."
So was reuniting with Macchio. "Our history was right there, even more than we would have imagined," he says.
Watch the full episode of People Features: Ralph Macchio streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.
Married to wife Stacie since 2008 and a father of two, Zabka also helped raise his godson, who is now 28.
"One thing I've learned about having the responsibility of being a father is that you think it's going to take your time, but it feeds you," he says. "I've always been a camp-counselor type of guy, and I really love it. There was a time when I thought I should own my own camp. Maybe one day I still will."
Cobra Kai is streaming on Netflix.
- Witness to Shooting of Lady Gaga's Dog Walker Ryan Fischer Details Aftermath of Armed Robbery
- 90 Day Fiancé's Big Ed Opens Up About Being an Inspiration to People with Klippel Feil Syndrome
- Coco Rocha Takes Us Behind the Scenes at Christian Siriano's NYFW Runway Show
- Meet the Black Bull Rider Taking the Sport by Storm — and Starring in a New Snapchat Series