‘Happy Days’ Icon Henry Winkler Has an Issue with Conventional Acting Classes

by Taylor Cunningham

If you take acting classes from Happy Days star Henry Winkler, he promises not to make you “feel like poop from a whale at the bottom of the ocean.”

Henry Winkler knows a thing or two about acting. He got an Ivy League drama education from Yale University. And he almost immediately landed the role of The Fonz after graduating. Then during his long and still successful career, he won three Emmys and two Golden Globes.

In his latest award-winning role, Winkler played Gene Cousineau on HBO’s Barry. In it, Cousineau is an eccentric acting teacher, which is actually something Henry Winkler has been in real life.

The actor occasionally holds events called The Winkler Method, where to passes his legendary skills on to a new generation of budding thespians. He taught his most recent class this year’s Vulture Festival.

So being Gene Cousineau came naturally to him. As he told PBS in a 2019 interview, he was able to draw from his real-life experiences to play the part. And he noted that he has an issue with conventional acting methods.

“A lot of acting teachers, they talk about breaking bad habits, they talk about breaking you down, and I totally get that,” he shared. “But I’ve taught four classes in my life and I think you can get an actor to move off their position without making them feel like poop from a whale at the bottom of the ocean.”

Henry Winkler Shares His ‘Happy Days’ Acting Methods at Vulture Fest

Henry Winkler has an unconventional approach to acting. And for the past couple of years, he’s shared some pointers with crowds of future stars at the Vulture Festival.

One tip he gives actors is to go into each audition as “an empty vessel” because Winkler doesn’t want any of his students carrying old parts or hard feelings into the studio.

But his number one piece of advice is “let go of your fear” because fear will stand in the way of greatness.

“I’m scared all the time,” he admitted at the Festival. “I audition. I sit in those metal chairs around the wall waiting to be called. Younger actors will see me and say ‘well you’re Henry Winkler. What are you doing here?’ ‘I’m going to look for a job. You?’ Because it never ends. You leave your fear in that chair when you go in that room. There is no right, there is no wrong. You have a 50/50 shot. Go for the gold.”

Henry Winkler also added that without passion, actors will be miserable and useless.

“You are not hired to fill time and space,” he explained. “You are hired for your imagination to fill that time and space. If you do not want to do this job — If you are not burning inside to be an artist, to be an actor, an actress, whatever it is, go and do something else. Because it is so difficult. The waiting is difficult. The rejection is difficult.