"I was so lucky that I got to play young Johnny Lawrence": In conversation with Cobra Kai star Thomas Parobek
As yet another action-packed, nostalgia-laden season of Cobra Kai hits the small screens across the globe, a certain 7-year old Fairfax, Virginia native seems to have hit the jackpot in terms of ushering in the new year on a high.
Meet Thomas Parobek, a pint-sized child star who punches way above his weight as a young Johnny Lawrence in the latest installment of Netflix's smash-hit series, Cobra Kai.
One of several new faces added to the Miyagi-Verse's ever-expansive and eclectic ensemble, Thomas' stellar turn is sure to make viewers sit up and take notice of his potential as a rising force to reckon with.
In a candid and exclusive interview with Saahil Agnelo Periwal of SkPop, Parobek recently opened up about his indelible Cobra Kai experience, the sensei Johnny Lawrence connection, upcoming projects, and more.
Cobra Kai star Thomas Parobek on playing Young Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid, and more
Q: How was the experience of working on the Netflix series Cobra Kai?
Thomas: It was so much fun. I still can’t believe I got to do this. I had the best time on set and all the people there were so nice to me. I really enjoyed meeting everyone.
The crew made me feel special and showed me where everything was. They even took me behind the scenes to where they filmed some of the other scenes in Cobra Kai. It was so cool because I remembered seeing those same things on the big screen.
I still keep in touch with the director. We are penpals. Of course, meeting the cast blew my mind. I remembered all of them but the biggest moment was meeting William Zabka because I watched him first in The Karate Kid. They were all so nice and asked me lots of questions.
Q: Could you tell us about what got you started on your acting journey? Share with us any personal anecdote or memorable childhood instances growing up so far.
Thomas: It’s been about two years that I’ve been acting professionally. I’m seven now, so I got started when I had just turned five. My uncle is a director, so he cast me in a movie called Authentics.
I played Linden Ashby’s grandson in it. Linden Ashby is a well-known actor who played Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat, so you know I was excited! I love that movie and have played the video game! He was so nice.
Mr. Ashby really liked me so he called his talent agency and told them about me. I had never acted before, but I knew I loved it.
I memorized all my lines really well and even helped Mr. Ashby when he couldn't remember his. The People Store Talent Agency asked me to come in and audition and they signed me. The rest is history. I am with an agency called CESD in New York/Los Angeles and the other one is People Store in Atlanta.
From the age of 2-3, I was a weekly part of the program at my great grandmother’s assisted living facility. It was called “Time with Thomas.”
I sang to residents, did exercises with them, listened to their stories, gave hugs and made some special memories. You could say that’s kind of where I started and grew a love for entertaining people and making them feel happy.
Q: What was it like playing the role of a young Johnny Lawrence? Was there any particular preparation you had to undergo for the role, considering how popular his character is?
Thomas: I was so lucky that I got to play young Johnny Lawrence. To be honest, I didn’t even know I was auditioning for the role of young Johnny, so when I found out, I was so so excited. Because I am in the flashbacks and play the child version of him, I didn’t really have to do much preparation.
I knew my lines and knew how to be a kid, so it wasn’t hard. I was very comfortable on set and got to play with Gi-Joes in the scene.
That was a fun part because I love playing! Since then I started doing more karate and I love it.
Q: Tell us about your most favorite thing about being on-set?
Thomas: There are a lot of things. I have to say that I loved the “crafty” there. Crafty is like a big table full of any kind of snacks you want.
The man working there was so nice to me and let me get anything I wanted. He also gave me an extra snack to take home to my brother.
I also loved meeting everyone. Everyone was so kind and welcoming to me. I got to meet a lot of the cast after I was done filming.
We all stood outside talking for a while and they weren’t in any rush to leave. They really made me feel special.
Q: How do you balance acting and school?
Thomas: I feel like my parents have done a good job helping me balance everything. I did start homeschooling for my 2nd grade year. Because I have been homeschooled, I have had more opportunities to travel.
I make sure and do my work during breaks and if I have to do work later in the day or finish up on a weekend, that’s okay with me.
The audition process for me is usually doing self-tapes, so I’ll do my school work, take a break and do my audition, and then come back up and finish my work.
Q: What are some of your hobbies apart from acting?
Thomas: I joined a basketball team called the Eagles and it is so much fun. We have a basketball hoop outside our house so I practice all the time.
I also do karate twice a week. I love to swim and know all my swim strokes and I also like tennis. Besides sports, I love drawing and making paper airplanes. I don’t know if you have heard of magnatiles, but they’re kind of like legos, but they are magnets. I could play them for hours.
Of course I do everything with my big brother. He’s 11 and is my best friend. We really like playing Dungeons and Dragons together and playing video games.
Q: What do you love the most about Cobra Kai and The Karate Kid movies/franchise ?
Thomas: I love the karate in the movies for sure. It looks so cool and I wish I could be as good as them. I also love how everyone can watch it, young and old. It is such a great story. I watched the Karate Kid when I was four and loved it.
My parents and grandparents also love those movies and the show, so it does not matter how old you are! The actors are awesome too.
They are so talented and I love how they are bringing so many characters from Karate Kid back onto Cobra Kai. I watched Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso when I was a toddler.
Q: Cobra Kai, Eagle Fang or Miyagi Do - which is your favorite dojo from the show and why?
Thomas: That’s a loaded question. But Eagle Fang because Johnny Lawrence is the sensei.
Q: Your top three favorite characters from the show?
Thomas: Johnny Lawrence hands down. Then Daniel LaRusso. And Hawk (Jacob Bertrand) was the first one I met.
He was going to wardrobe, but he ran over to me first and we talked for a good while. He also grew up as a child actor, so we had something in common. He was so nice.
Q: Top three favorite Hollywood actors you admire and would love to work with?
Thomas: That is a hard question. I love Stranger Things and I binge-watched the entire series already. Probably Noah Schnapp, who plays Will. He is so talented. I also admire Linden Ashby because he helped me become an actor and saw something in me.
We have only acted together once, but now that I’m older, I would want to be in more things with him. There are so many great actors out there, but I love Spiderman.
I really loved the new Spiderman movie. I’d want to act with any of those guys. Andrew Garfield is a huge Cobra Kai fan. I am a big fan of him, so the fact that he will watch me act is so exciting.
Q: Besides an actor, what would you like to be when you grow up?
Thomas: A doctor. Like a cancer doctor... When people are sick, it makes me sad, so I want to help as many people as I can.
Q: Having already starred in a slew of impressive short films so far, what upcoming projects do you have on the horizon in the new year?
Thomas: I am really looking forward to 2022. I was in two feature films in 2021. I was a lead in the horror/thriller “They Watch” and also was a supporting role in “Waking in Southport.”
Both will be coming out in 2022 and you will all be able to watch it. There may be some other things coming down the pipeline, so you’ll have to wait and see!
Q: How has the feedback and support from friends, family, and fans been so far?
Thomas: Everyone has been super supportive. It just blows my mind and I am so honored and appreciative. My friends and family are so happy that I am happy and doing what I love, but they also give me that balance and that means a lot. I have the best fans in the world.
Really. They are so nice to me and are always cheering me on. They made awesome fan art and edits for me and one even made me a t-shirt. I couldn’t believe it. They make me smile.
Q: Any message you would like to share for viewers worldwide tuning in to watch you on Cobra Kai and on-screen in the near future ?
Thomas: Just a big thank you for being so nice and kind to me.
It means so much and stay tuned. After all, I’m only 7. I’ve got the whole world ahead of me.