‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Reveals How He Separated Himself From Fonzie

by Joe Rutland

When Henry Winkler does anything in life, he’s usually getting tagged with his role as Fonzie from Happy Days. There’s no doubt that the leather-jacket-wearing character is iconic in the world of classic TV. Winkler took that role and made it his own. People see him in that sitcom and just think he plays only that type of role. Well, we all know that he’s in the midst of an Emmy-winning stretch on the HBO series Barry. Still, separating himself from The Fonz did take some effort. You’d be surprised, though, at how simplistic Winkler makes the whole thing sound.

“At 11 o’clock at night or 12 o’clock at night, when the filming was done, I took the jacket off, I put on my button-down shirt, and then he was in the closet in my dressing room and I was in the car going home,” Winkler tells ABC News in an interview. “It was never a process.”

Henry Winkler Would Be Part of Subtle Shift In ‘Happy Days’

Just like that, Henry would drop The Fonz and leave him alone. If you recall, early on in Happy Days there was not the type of Fonzie-mania that would take hold in later seasons. The show was not filmed in front of a studio audience at the beginning. When it made that shift, a subtle change could be noted in the show itself. It looks like filming it differently helped Happy Days keep on going. He would find himself at the center of episodes for a good stretch. Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunnigham, was the star of that show until leaving. Both men have remained close over the years. Heck, Winkler is the godfather of Howard’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard.

One of the great gifts in his life that Winkler has talked about is Happy Days creator Garry Marshall. Marshall, who had a slew of TV shows and hits in the 1970s, actually took Winkler under his wing. It’s through the power of a story that the actor lets people know how much Marshall meant to his career. One time, Winkler said he went up to Marshall while the man was introducing the show’s guest cast after a Friday night taping.

“And I said, ‘We have to hurry, Garry,'” he said. “‘Because I’m going to Little Rock to make an appearance.'” That was not the right thing to say. “When he was finished with the guest cast, he came up to me and he put me against the wall,” Winkler said. “He said don’t ever interrupt me again when I’m introducing your guest cast.” It was a lesson that Winkler never forgot about from that day forward. And Marshall’s guiding hand would help Winkler’s career go forward.