‘Happy Days’: Did Ron Howard Join Show to Avoid Draft?

by Quentin Blount

Ron Howard enrolled at The University of Southern California’s film school intending to go into filmmaking. Then, the Vietnam War happened.

Howard grew into prominence on The Andy Griffith Show. We all remember him for his adorable role of Opie Taylor, but he also had several guest roles on other classic TV shows. For example, he appeared in an episode on M*A*S*H.

Howard spent eight years on The Andy Griffith Show. That being said, his childhood as a child star wasn’t one that he devoutly adored. But his soon-to-be illustrious career kept going not to a change of passion, but a desire to avoid the Vietnam war.

It worked out well too, considering how Happy Days became one of the most iconic shows of the 1970s and one that was in syndication for 50+ years. But the initial motivation was nothing more than to avoid being drafted.

Way back in 1985, Howard sat down with the Washington Post for an interview in which he dropped the bombshell.

“The war was still going on, and I had a lousy number,” he says. “But I had read somewhere that if your job could be directly related to the employment of 30 or more people, that that would be a deferment. I thought, ‘If this series goes, I bet you I could get that deferment.’ “

However, the U.S. ended the draft just weeks later. Howard’s number was never up, so it never ended up mattering anyways.

While Howard didn’t necessarily join the show with a pure thespian’s intention, he undoubtedly made his mark on the program and on television history.

Ron Howard Admits He Almost Quit the Series Once

Interestingly enough, Howard never actually needed to dodge the draft. His number was never up, so he would have never been sent overseas. So, in some ways, Howard’s decision ended up not mattering at all from his personal perspective.

But, obviously, it placed him squarely in the midst of pop culture for decades to come. But Happy Days wasn’t always such a happy time for the actor.

Despite the series finding massive success a couple seasons in, Howard apparently wasn’t a fan of the show’s goofy nature. Considering he was coming from a production like The Andy Griffith Show, it would make sense that Happy Days felt off.

Things weren’t helped when the show began to put more and more emphasis on the character Fonzie, who had become a hit with audiences.

According to Marion Cunningham actress Marian Ross’ book My Days: Happy and Otherwise, Howard initially struggled with the pivot.

“I will never forget the day when, though the show was sitting strongly in the number one slot in the ratings, a dejected Ron Howard came into my dressing room and flopped into a chair,” she wrote.

It was difficult for cast members because they liked Fonzie actor Henry Winkler. But the Fonzie push was apparently obnoxious.

“It’s just all about the Fonz,” Howard told Ross. “Every damn day it’s the Fonz this and the Fonz that. There are other people involved with this show other than him, ya know!”

Howard considered moving away from the show, but his departure never materialized. The rest, they say, is history