To Happy Days‘ fanatics, he’ll forever be best friend and singing sensation Potsie Webber. In the television directing world, however, he’s Anson Williams – one of the most prolific small-screen directors of his generation.
While speaking to Equality 365 in late 2018, Happy Day‘s alum Williams delved deep into how he wound up in the director’s chair like his co-star, Ron Howard. Much of this falls to his early influences, which Williams says “as a young kid, it would have to be Gene Kelly and Al Jolson.”
In his youth, these two geniuses in their “musical performances” would transform Williams. He would go on to perform in much musical theatre himself, as well as his voice featuring heavily in Happy Days.
“Somehow they inspired me, and I connected with them as a kid,” he adds of Kelly and Jolson. “It wasn’t for obvious reasons, either. Mine was a lower-middle-class family, with no one in show business. But something about that kind of work inspired me.”
This stands in contrast to Ron Howard, who came from a Hollywood family. Ron’s father, Rance Howard, starred in over 100 films and countless television episodes across his life. The two even made their feature film debuts with the exact same project: 1956’s Western, Frontier Woman.
But for Anson Williams, there was no in-road. He had to figure it all out for himself.
‘Happy Days’ Anson Williams had to Prove Himself
“I knew early on that I had a knack for comedy acting, but I felt I wasn’t that talented. It was limited for me,” Williams continues for Equality 365 in their 2018 interview.
Congruently, Williams always felt he had a talent for writing, something he did often growing up. In addition, he would discover “a natural inclination to being behind the camera” like Howard. Yet there was no famous actor-of-a-father to guide Anson into directing. He had to prove himself fully. Not that Ron Howard didn’t, too, but the road proved much longer for Williams.
“I wrote a story called ‘Skyward,’ and it was filmed starring Bette Davis. Garry Marshall set it up for me to shadow several directors on the sets so I could learn from them,” he reveals.
The Happy Days alum would shadow icons such as “Roman Polanski, and others, never mind Ron Howard,” he jests of his co-star’s brilliance and influence. “I also found that I had a talent for it – I love being a storyteller. I wrote and directed, and stared in No Greater Gift – I co-wrote The Lone Star Kid, which starred James Earl Jones, and also served as Executive Director.”
In the end, Anson Williams says he would finally start “being taken seriously by working for other people.”
A fair and honorable path – one that would lead the Happy Days’ icon into far more wealth – creatively and financially – than he previously imagined.