‘Happy Days’: Here’s Who Ron Howard Says Should Play His Character in a Series Revival

by John Jamison

For 10 years, from 1974 to 1984, former “The Andy Griffith Show” star Ron Howard played Richie Cunningham on “Happy Days.” Like Henry Winkler’s Fonzi, it’s nearly impossible to picture someone else playing Howard’s iconic character. But have you ever wondered who’d do the role justice if the show came back today? Well, the Richie actor turned acclaimed director has given it plenty of thought.

The potential for a “Happy Days” revival has kept diehard fans going for years. The family comedy was a smash hit, and getting the gang back together would cause quite the stir. However, all these years later, we can’t expect the likes of Henry Winkler to reprise his role as mythic teen Fonzi. The same goes for Howard and Richie. The coming of age aspect of the show was too central for them to pivot toward adulthood.

So should they decide to revive “Happy Days,” chances are the whole thing would be recast. There’d be plenty of room for Fonz and Richie cameos, of course. But at the end of the day, a new set of actors would have to pick up where the Cunninghams left off.

There’s this kid, his career is really taking off so who knows, but let’s just say I think Jack Dylan Grazer would be great. That is Brian Grazer — my partner at Imagine Entertainment — his nephew. But nepotism aside, I think he’d be great,” Howard told Entertainment Tonight recently. “He’d be a cooler, hipper Richie Cunningham. If he was willing to take the job.”

The former “Happy Days” star has directed nearly 50 movies, so we’re going to go ahead and take his word for it. Offended as we are by Howard claiming anyone could be cooler. Though, Richie is an easier character to recast than Fonzi. No offense.

The ‘Happy Days’ Star Lost Sleep Over Fonzie’s Popularity

“Happy Days” fans out there likely know the story. The Fonz wasn’t originally intended to be a worldwide sensation, but that’s what happened. The Henry Winkler character’s popularity shot through the roof, and folks couldn’t get enough Fonzie in their lives.

Naturally, this came as a bit of a shock to Ron Howard. His Richie Cunningham character was initially written as the main character on “Happy Days.” As he felt his own popularity slip in the face of a leather-clad greaser, he felt the pressure.

“The biggest stressor of all was Fonzie. Not Henry [Winkler], but Fonzie. It did not escape my notice that as the season went on, the Fonz was getting more and more screen time,” Howard wrote in his memoir.

What happened next was too much for anyone to handle. The “Happy Days” producers entertained the idea of changing the show’s title to “Fonzie’s Happy Days.” Howard was so stressed his hair was falling out. Fortunately, creator Garry Marshall gave Howard the final say on the matter.