Happy Days star Henry Winkler once opened up about his time on the hit show, but also revealed how tough read-throughs could be because of his undiagnosed dyslexia.
Winkler joined the BBC’s HARDtalk back in 2015 where the British media source discussed his most well-known role as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli. The Happy Days actor struggled with reading and spelling for much of his life but didn’t know why. In fact, Winkler was already a star and in the middle of The Fonz craze at the height of his popularity when he received some answers. Doctors finally diagnosed Winkler with dyslexia at 31 years old.
The actor spoke candidly about his diagnosis and his ongoing struggles that continue to this very day. The BBC interviewer specifically asked Winkler how he dealt with auditions and read-throughs. The Happy Days star said he simply learned to live with the embarrassment that came along with his dyslexia.
“I was embarrassed. Read-through, just to let everybody know, Monday morning we would read through the script for the writers and the producers. They could hear it. It would be the beginning of the rehearsal to make the show that Friday.”
“And you’re struggling to read,” the interviewer chimes in.
“Struggled. Struggle to this day,” Winkler responds.
“So how did you get away with it?” the interviewer asked the Happy Days actor.
“I didn’t,” Winkler responded. “I stumbled, and I was embarrassed. And I learned to live with my embarrassment. I finally said, ‘You know what? This is me, this is how I get through it.’ And my heart races at every read-through ’til this day.”
‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Shares More About His Undiagnosed Dyslexia
During a 2017 interview, the Happy Days actor revealed more about his undiagnosed dyslexia. Although he’s had his struggles, Henry Winkler has obviously done well for himself over the years even when not knowing about his learning disorder.
The actor persevered in college as well. Winkler earned a bachelor’s degree in 1967 from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. Additionally, he attended the prestigious Yale School of Drama and received a Master of Fine Arts in 1970. Yet Winkler admits he had trouble with certain subjects in school and other tasks that are simple for most.
“I was dyslexic and didn’t know it until I was 31. Couldn’t do math, spell, or tell left from right. Left was the elbow that stuck out the window while I drove,” Winkler explained to AARP.
Years later, Winkler’s friends gave him the idea to write a children’s book based on his experiences with dyslexia. In 2003, that journey began when Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever was published. Since that first book released, 17 other books in the children’s series have come out.
“I was told I should write books for children about it. I thought, I can’t — I feel stupid. Then I thought, OK, I’m gonna try. My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Adolf, was very mean. And I portray her that way in Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever – my series of books about a learning-challenged kid. My music teacher, Mr. Rock, told me, ‘You’re gonna be OK.’ I’ve held on to that buoy for over 50 years,” Winkler added.