‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Said He Changed His ‘Voice’ and His ‘Body’ to Crush Audition

by Chris Haney

During a 2017 interview, Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli actor Henry Winkler opened up about his auditions for Happy Days in the early 1970s.

Four years ago, Winkler joined the BUILD Series in New York City where he talked about his early acting career. Of course, everyone knows the actor’s famous cool guy greaser role from the classic TV show Happy Days. However, the confidence The Fonz oozed on the show didn’t originally translate to Winkler’s own life.

While growing up, Winkler’s parents and teachers often called him stupid. Therefore the actor had very little “sense of self” as he described it. Winkler shared that he carried the stigma of being stupid with him for years, and that it effected his auditions. Yet going into his Happy Days audition, the actor decided to change his voice and his body language.

“I’m 27 years old when I audition and I’m nervous, but I changed my voice and I changed my body. And then all of a sudden I just like read this script and I just made it up,” Winkler said in his Fonzie voice. “And then I was finished and I threw the script up in the air, and I sauntered out of the room. Then they called me two weeks later, on my birthday October 30, 1973, and they said, ‘Would you like to play this part?'”

“But I had to change my voice,” he added. “When I would play a character as Henry, using Henry’s voice trying to access Henry, I was so closed off emotionally. So scared and lacking in confidence that I wish I could do some of those roles again because I never really gave them justice.”

‘Happy Days’ Star Explains Why ‘You Never Would Have Considered’ Henry Winkler for Fonzie Role

Happy Days actor Tom Bosley, who played Howard Cunningham, once shared why Henry Winkler’s casting as Fonzie surprised him. Yet he credits Winkler’s talent for being able to pull off the role.

While speaking with the Archive of American Television before his 2010 death, Bosley opened up about some of his co-stars. The interviewer asked him what it was like watching Winkler’s meteoric rise to fame. Bosley joked that Winkler and The Fonz would likely never end up in the same room in real life. But he admits he was the perfect choice for the role.

“Henry was perfect for that role,” Bosley said. “I mean if you had interviewed Henry Winkler with his background you probably would have never even considered him for that role: highly-educated, comes from a good family, European background went to Yale (University Drama School).”

Bosley also complimented Winkler for the way he dealt with his newfound stardom. In addition, he called his co-star “dedicated” and “hard-working.”

“Henry is dedicated, hard-working, always faced whatever challenge came,” Bosley explained. “He handled his success really wonderfully well and is an extremely charitable person. He got married during the show and raised a stepson, and then had a couple of children of his own. And I think the wisest thing that he did when we were finished was he laid off acting for a while, and went into production and went into directing.”