‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Talked Not Wanting to Do a Series

by Jennifer Shea
David Livingston/Getty Images

Happy Days star Henry Winkler found out that he had gotten the role of Fonzie on his birthday. But while he had auditioned for the part, he was initially reticent to do the show, he said. At the time, Winkler didn’t want to commit to a series.

In a 1974 interview on the Mike Douglas Show, Winkler talked about the negotiations that preceded his acceptance of what would turn out to be an iconic role. And he praised his co-stars, who appeared on the show with him.

“As a matter of fact, I didn’t want to do a series,” Winkler said. “The producer then called me, and we had a long talk, and as long as I could make Fonzie a human being, I said fine. And now I work with great guys.”

Watch Winkler discuss his initial reticence to do a series here (at 11:20):

Winkler and Happy Days Co-Star Ron Howard Have a Great Friendship

Winkler and his Happy Days co-star Ron Howard forged a close friendship on the set of the show, and they remain good friends to this day, both of them Hollywood heavyweights – Howard as a director, Winkler as an actor. And Winkler is reportedly godfather to each of Howard’s four children.

“We immediately bonded and became great friends,” Howard recently said of meeting his Happy Days co-star. “We were a fantastic ensemble — we all got along great.”

But having Winkler around wasn’t always easy for Howard. Back in the day, Fonzie quickly became an international heartthrob. And teenage girls weren’t the only ones fawning over the actor who played him. Howard saw it from network executives, too.

In a recent appearance on “The Graham Norton Show,” Howard said that off the set, he started feeling “disrespect” from everyone from studio heads to reporters over Fonzie’s popularity.

The Hollywood executives started “really treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint, just in terms of interaction,” Howard recalled.

“The press kept saying, ‘What’s it like? Do you feel that you’ve become a second-class citizen on your own show?’ and these kinds of things,” he added. “Which I didn’t feel within the workspace. And I certainly didn’t feel it within our friendship, which endures to this day.”

Winkler Was Typecast for Years After Doing the Series

Meanwhile, Winkler found himself stuck with offers to reprise his role as Fonzie in some form or another for years after he did Happy Days. So he temporarily abandoned acting for producing.

“I was typecast, there was no stopping that,” Winkler told Newsweek last autumn. “I didn’t work for eight years after The Fonz, really.”

Winkler’s fear of being typecast led him to turn down the role of Danny Zuko in Grease, a role that ultimately went to John Travolta. But Winkler didn’t want to play a greaser again. So he said no, and then, he quipped, “I went home and had an orange juice. John Travolta said yes, and he went home and bought a plane.”