‘Happy Days’: Ron Howard Didn’t Want to Be a ‘Brand,’ TV Acting Pushed Him to Directing

by Evan Reier

Understanding the career of Happy Days legend and directing icon Ron Howard means comprehending a lifetime of entertainment.

In a 2015 interview with Dan Patrick, Howard’s career was comprehensively addressed. Aside from being beloved as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie on Happy Days, Howard is also an accomplished director.

“Let me embarrass you hear Ron,” Dan Patrick started. “American Graffiti, Grand Theft Auto, More American Graffiti, Nightshift, Splash, Cocoon, Backdraft, Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind, Cowboys and Aliens, Frost/Nixon, Da Vinci Code, Rush… You’re pretty good.”

Yeah, you could say that Dan, you could say that. In classic fashion, Ron Howard keeps it humble. The former Happy Days star is modest and a little meek in his response.

However, the pursuit of his career is something anyone can relate to. But in the same vein as Patrick’s context, Howard started his answer with his own context of how much he acted as a child.

“Well, I love it,” Howard responded. “And I like all kinds of movies. And, you know, because I grew up on TV series, The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days that you mentioned, in between was a failed show starring Henry Fonda called the The Smith Family. So from 1960, when I was six years old, to 1980 when I was 26, I was under contract to a television show for like 17-and-a-half out of those 20 years.”

If that’s not a career for the ages, I’m not sure what is.

Happy Days Star Ron Howard Didn’t Want to Be Typecasted

In the world of acting, it’s not unheard of for that kind of longevity. But seeing it spelled out is still staggering. Unsurprisingly, all that time spent on stage taught Howard a thing or two. While picking up pointers on how to improve, he also began understanding where he wanted to take his life.

“When I knew I was going to have a career as a director,” Howard continued. “It was a dream come true, but the other thing I knew is that I didn’t want to be typecasted. I didn’t want to have ‘the brand’ of he does comedy, he does thrillers, or he does quirky, esoteric stuff. I really wanted to be able to work in different genres and different styles, and tell different stories in different ways.”

Consequently, the conflict of typecasting is one that has plagued actors in entertainment for decades. A smash hit becomes a double-edged sword. Actors may reach new levels of recognition, but, until proven otherwise, they will be expected to fit the mold of that breakout role.

Countless actors have discussed the issue, from Howard to The Brady Bunch icon Barry Williams. Breaking out or fitting in becomes two of the only choices. Fortunately, for the world of cinema, Howard was determined to be a director.