‘Happy Days’ Stars Once Talked About Friendship Off Camera

by Jennifer Shea
Rachel Luna/Getty Images

The cast of Happy Days became good friends through long days spent on set with few breaks. And those friendships forged under demanding conditions have endured through the years since the show ended in 1984.

In a 1974 interview on the Mike Douglas Show, Happy Days stars Henry Winkler and Ron Howard talked about the cast’s friendships on set and off-camera. They said their work left them with little free time, but the Happy Days set was an “energized” and collegial place.

“We are friends, yes, and we work about 15 hours a day in a meat freezer,” Winkler said. “You know, you start from when you get up, and you start to prepare—”

“But there are a lot of breaks in between,” their interviewer interjected.

“No, very few,” Winkler said. “We have a director, Jerry Paris, that keeps our set energized to the point where your teeth tingle. I’m not kidding. He is the reason that we are so terrific.”

“Plus a cameraman who just moves at such a pace that he can keep up with Jerry,” his co-star Howard jumped in. “And we have no longer than 10 or 15 minutes, ever, between any shots.”

Watch the whole interview here:

Happy Days Friendships Were Tested by ‘Fonzie-mania’

Winkler and Howard quickly struck up a friendship when the show started, and they remain good friends to this day. But Howard, who was already a star thanks to The Andy Griffith Show, was soon overshadowed by the epic fandom for Winkler’s character, Fonzie.

Happy Days had been conceived with Richie Cunningham as its protagonist. But before long, network brass was talking about renaming the show Fonzie’s Happy Days. They were partly catering to the public, but also, they were partly caught up in “Fonzie-mania” themselves.

In a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Howard talked about what it was like to see seasoned executives’ affections suddenly shift to Winkler, and at some detriment to himself.

“We immediately bonded and became great friends,” Howard said of Winkler. “We were a fantastic ensemble, we all got along great. But slowly but surely, as they started to write for him, and – I mean, it became sort of like Beatlemania for awhile. I mean, we would go out on the road to promote the show. It was just insane, focused on Fonzie, clearly that was very exciting. Except the executives, studio heads, network heads, they started really treating me with a lot of disrespect. From a business standpoint, just in terms of interaction.”   

Still, Howard and Winkler never let that poison their friendship, and Winkler is now godfather to each of Howard’s children. And the Hollywood pros have both found success in their chosen careers – Winkler as an actor, and Howard as a director.

Watch the full Graham Norton interview here: