Long before Happy Days debuted in 1974, creator Garry Marshall knew Ron Howard would make a great addition to his classic TV cast.
According to the writer and director’s 2012 memoir My Happy Days, he and his future Richie Cunningham met when Howard was a kid working on The Andy Griffith Show. And Marshall was keenly aware that Howard was born to be a star—but not just because of his obvious on-screen talent.
In the book, Marshall described Howard as having a “dream temperament,” which meant he was “even keel, and not subject to the slightest high or low.”
When the two first met, though, Garry Marshall was a brand new writer working on the I Love Lucy Show. And he never would have guessed that he’d ever be in the position to hire the young actor one day. So instead of dreaming up a future role for Howard, he was content with tossing around a baseball with the kids during set breaks.
Garry Marshall Finally Got to Work with Ron Howard a Decade After Meeting Him
But, of course, Garry Marshall ended up being one of the most famous sitcom showrunners in history. And about ten years after meeting the child star, he was able to test his theory and work with Howard.
The actor was everything that Marshall dreamed of and more.
“He reminded me of a professional basketball player,” Marshall continued. “He had the ability to shoot the ball and score. But [he] also the strength and focus to pass the ball to others to let them score, too.”
And Ron Howard proved exactly how comfortable he was with letting others shine shortly after the series premiered.
From the start of Happy Days, Garry Marshall intended Ron Howard to be the lead star. But that’s not how it worked out. Instead, Henry Winkler lit the television world on fire with The Fonz. And Ron Howard eventually gracefully bowed out.
“Now, Henry, from the very first episode, Henry Winkler, Playing the Fonz, just with a few lines, just had this remarkable character,” Howard once told the Graham Norton Show.
“We immediately bonded and became great friends. We were a fantastic ensemble. And we all got along great,” he continued, further proving that there was no competition on set.
If that wasn’t enough to show how easily he passed the ball, Howard also went on to name Winkler as the godfather to all four of his children.
And Marshall never stopped appreciating that “dream temperament” either. And he made sure to be loyal to the actor, even after Winkler became his star.
When it was apparent that Arther Fonzerelli was Happy Day’s moneymaker, some of the writers wanted to change the show’s name to Fonzie. But despite being content with the popularity shakeup, Howard wasn’t ok with the title change. And Garry Marshall respected his feelings by putting his foot down and refusing the request.