Henry Winkler Compares Preparation for ‘Barry’ to Playing Fonzie on ‘Happy Days’

by Taylor Cunningham

Emmy-winning classic TV icon Henry Winkler knows a thing or two about acting. And in a recent interview, he gave fans a few free tips on trying to make it in the industry.

The 76-year-old Yale drama graduate has played in just about every type of medium and role imaginable. From Broadway to the small screen to the silver screen, he’s mastered the art of acting in a way that most have not.

But according to him, it’s not hard to hone into your inner thespian. All you have to do is “start with yourself,” and the rest will follow. As he told CBS Mornings, he used that same concept to snap into both Fonzie from Happy Days and Gene from Barry.

And since he has his own acting class called The Winkler Method that budding stars travel half a globe to attend, we assume he knows what he’s talking about.

“Acting is acting is acting,” she shared. “You start with yourself. Every character ever written in literature is in you already. And then it is, ‘what does the writer say about you? What do other people say about you in the piece? What does the director say? And what do you hear from the other actors? And you take all of that, and all—I play an acting teacher. I’ve had 13 or 14 acting teachers. I take them all, I combine them, put them in, they come out Gene.”

Henry Winkler’s Acting Method Won’t ‘Make You Feel Like Poop From a Whale at the Bottom of the Ocean’

Henry Winkler delves deeper into this advice in his aforementioned Winkler Method classes. And he gained nearly all of his advice by doing exactly the opposite of what his own acting teachers taught him.

As he told PBS in 2019, he has issues with conventional acting methods because they give students a horrible complex.

“A lot of acting teachers, they talk about breaking bad habits, they talk about breaking you down,” he said. “And I totally get that. But I’ve taught four classes in my life. And I think you can get an actor to move off their position without making them feel like poop from a whale at the bottom of the ocean.”

Instead, he asks people to approach their craft as an “empty vessel,” and most importantly, they need to  “let go” of fear.” 

“I’m scared all the time,” he admitted at the Vulture Festival. “I audition. I sit in those metal chairs around the wall waiting to be called. Younger actors will see me and say ‘well you’re Henry Winkler. What are you doing here?’ ‘I’m going to look for a job. You?’ Because it never ends. You leave your fear in that chair when you go in that room. There is no right, there is no wrong. You have a 50/50 shot. Go for the gold.”