The actor talks to EW's The Awardist podcast about his career trajectory from '80s movie bully to Emmy contender.

More than 35 years after his big-screen debut as ace degenerate Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid, William Zabka is now a legitimate Emmy contender for his performance as adult Johnny on Netflix's Cobra Kai.

"The 18-year-old me is kicking himself on a beach somewhere," Zabka tells EW's The Awardist podcast. "It's so unbelievable."

The wild success of Cobra Kai — which follows Johnny and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) as they run dueling karate dojos — is even more surprising given that teenage Zabka didn't think he'd land the role of Johnny in the first place.

"When I read the Karate Kid script, as I turned the pages, I was like, 'I'm never getting this part. He's a black belt; I didn't know karate. He's a motorcycle gang leader; I don't know how to ride a motorcycle. He's mean — the last thing I did was a milk commercial, maybe an M&Ms commercial. They're never gonna see me as this gang karate guy.'"

Fortunately for every Karate Kid and Cobra Kai fan everywhere, Zabka was wrong. To hear more from Zabka — including his favorite moment from Cobra Kai season 3, and which iconic Karate Kid item he still has in his closet — listen to the full conversation below.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Emmys analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's TV shows and performances.

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