‘Happy Days’: Potsie Actor Anson Williams, Ron Howard Competed for Same Role in Legendary Movie

by Jennifer Shea

People know Anson Williams for his portrayal of Potsie on “Happy Days.” But after the show ended, he went on to much bigger things. The former actor would later direct such hit TV shows as “Melrose Place,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Lizzie McGuire” and “Seventh Heaven.”

However, as successful as Williams was as a director, acting stardom was not in the cards for him. He auditioned for the same role that Ron Howard ultimately got in “American Graffiti.” And it did not go well.

“I auditioned for American Graffiti for the same part Ron got,” Williams told Smashing Interviews magazine in 2017. “He was much better than me.”

Later in Life, Williams Also Developed a Remedy for Drowsy Driving

Williams’ uncle was Dr. Henry Heimlich, who came up with the Heimlich maneuver. Heimlich died in 2016. He was 96 years old. But before he did, he worked with Williams to develop a lemon spray that drowsy drivers can use to wake themselves up.

It all started nearly two decades ago. Williams was pulling long stints as a director in Palmdale, a desert area near Los Angeles. He fell asleep at the wheel while driving back home through intense heat and “ended up bouncing around in the Palmdale desert,” he said. Fortunately, Williams suffered no injuries in the incident. But the outcome could have been much more serious.

Heimlich heard about Williams’ experience and told his nephew that in the future, he should just bite into a lemon. The natural citric acid and sour flavor of the lemon stimulate a key nerve in the tongue, and that triggers the release of a burst of adrenalin.

“The body’s reaction is an immediate reflex reaction of adrenaline,” Williams told Smashing Interviews. “It’s not even in your system and you’re awake! You’re up by your own body’s reflex action. So I never had a problem again. For years I had lemons in the car.”

But Williams did some research and found that many accidents result from drivers falling asleep at the wheel. From that, he decided that there was a market for a lemon spray that triggers the lingual nerve and wakes people up instantly. So he and Heimlich collaborated with chemists, doctors and test subjects to perfect a spray with the right amount of lemon juice and citric acid. They called the product Alert Drops.

“If you drink coffee, it takes 20 minutes to take affect, so it’s not going to save your life,” Williams explained.

No ‘Happy Days’ Reboot In the Works

Williams talked to Smashing Interviews about the possibility of a “Happy Days” reboot, with the original cast appearing as older versions of their characters. He acknowledged that “Fuller House” was an example of doing a reboot right, but he said that probably wouldn’t fly for “Happy Days.”

“Maybe,” Williams said. But “with us, I don’t know what the show would be. Ron [Howard] won’t do it. Henry [Winkler] won’t do it. I probably wouldn’t do it. I don’t know how it would work other than us being older [and] having kids.”

It looks like “Happy Days” fans are just going to have to make do with reruns for the time being.