‘Happy Days’ Star Ron Howard Says He Was ‘Disrespected’ by Show Execs

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

From 1974 to 1984, Ron Howard and Henry Winkler starred in the classic TV sitcom, Happy Days. Ron Howard earned the starring role of Richie Cunningham, a likable, strait-laced high school student. Henry Winkler took the role of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli, best friend and foil to Richie.

As with many TV show casts, the duo quickly became friends in real life, complementing their on-screen relationship. “We immediately bonded and became great friends,” Howard shared with The Graham Norton Show. “We were a fantastic ensemble – we all got along great.”

The two young actors were brought on the show as equals. According to Ron Howard, however, that began to change once The Fonz became the clear fan-favorite character. Though he and Henry Winkler were good friends, Ron Howard remembers the “studio heads” and “network heads” started “really treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint, just in terms of interaction.”

“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. Which I didn’t feel within the workspace. And I certainly didn’t feel it within our friendship, which endures to this day.”

‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Talks Friendship With Ron Howard, Difficulties After The Fonz

Though they have a good-spirited rivalry, Ron Howard and Henry Winkler couldn’t be better friends. They’re so close, in fact, that Ron Howard asked Henry Winkler to be godfather to all four of his children.

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Henry Winkler described his ongoing relationship with Ron Howard. “He is my brother, he is my good friend,” Winkler said. “Right now! He just invited me to dinner and I couldn’t because I had to come here.”

Winkler doesn’t seem to harbor any negative feelings about his Happy Days costars or his time as The Fonz. However, he can’t deny that things were a tough for him when the sitcom ended. Despite The Fonz opening doors for Winkler, he found himself pigeonholed.

“People would say, ‘Wow, he’s funny. He’s such a good actor. But he was The Fonz,” Winkler explained to Insider. “And so they would pass me by. You have to learn to find the strength in yourself to deal with that, reinvent yourself, move on.”

It took some time, but Henry Winkler eventually found himself in new roles. And in Winkler’s opinion, everything unfolded exactly how it was meant to. “If you’re supposed to have it, you will have it,” Winkler said. “If you’re supposed to get a role, it will come to you. I tried, it didn’t. Sometimes it did. If I look back from the time I arrived in Hollywood on the 18th of September 1973, I’ve had the most amazing career.”