‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Said Fonzie ‘Straightened Out’ Too Much As Show Went On

by Jennifer Shea

“Happy Days” star Henry Winkler did not approve of the character development arc that the show’s writers had in mind for his character, Fonzie.

Fonzie was not exactly respectful toward the ladies on the show, snapping his fingers at them and trading one for another. But that was part of who he was. And later on, in “Going Steady,” Fonzie meets a woman who tames his wild ways.

In a Television Academy Foundation interview, Winkler discussed how his character changed over the course of the show – and how he didn’t change, as well.

“He was a player,” Winkler said of Fonzie. “You know, but here’s the thing. Let me just say this right out, for anybody who’s watching this. All right, this is my advice to you. You don’t snap your fingers at women. It doesn’t work.”

It worked in the show, he admitted. But you do that in real life, he said, and “they will break your fingers.”

Winkler Said Fonzie ‘Straightened Out’ Too Much On ‘Happy Days’

All that said, Winkler felt the show’s writers tamped down Fonzie’s attitude too much toward the end of the show.

“I think he straightened out too much toward the end,” Winkler said. “He became a teacher. He kind of settled down. I changed my T-shirt from white to black, and back again.”

Aside from that, he said Fonzie didn’t really change or mature much over the course of the show.

“I think basically he stayed the same,” Winkler said.

If Fonzie were still onscreen today, Winkler added, he’d be Mr. Goodwrench. He’d own a chain of shops somewhere.

It Took Winkler Years to Escape Typecasting After Fonzie

Winkler became famous for playing the gruff, womanizing friend of Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) Arthur Fonzarelli, or the Fonz. And for years afterward, he kept getting typecast as that sort of character.

He told NPR that it took nearly a decade before he stopped getting offers to play one-dimensional toughs.

“It took me maybe eight years after the Fonz to really get a good acting role,” Winkler said.

Still, before he landed a role on “Happy Days,” Winkler had been doing commercials. He wasn’t ashamed to appear in commercials, even though some people could be snobs about those sorts of jobs, he added.

“Everybody I went to Yale with said, ‘I don’t know how you can do commercials; we are trained for theater,’” Winkler recalled. “Except that the money I made from commercials allowed me to go to California for a month and be able to survive, and within two weeks I got ‘Happy Days.’”

And the rest is American pop culture history.