If you get the part once, you ought to have the part, right? You would think, but one Happy Days legend actually had to prove it twice over.
Happy Days famously had two pilots, as many shows did. Another iconic show from the era, All in the Family, ended up having three different pilots before the iconic cast was set in place.
While some pieces moved between Happy Days‘ two pilots, one that didn’t was Ron Howard. Howard would go on to play the titular role of Richie Cunningham, but it didn’t necessarily start the way he anticipated.
Howard first auditioned for Richie as a 17-year-old, and got the part. However, that was the first pilot, the one that never made it out.
In an interview with Dan Patrick in 2015, Howard spoke on the gap between the two pilots and added a hilarious detail to conclude.
“I went to film school, but I was in a movie called American Graffiti,” Howard said. “Which wound up being this kind of phenomenal hit, and it was about the 1960s. ABC went back and said, ‘Now we need to do a show about the 1950s or 1960s.’ And Garry Marshall, who had created [Happy Days,] said, ‘As a matter of fact we have it, and this same guy who was in the movie you like that you want to copy, is in our show.”
It’s a pretty cool look into exactly what Howard was going through at the time. But as he jokingly adds, he didn’t even get to use Marshall’s vouching to any benefit.
“But did you know the bastards still made me audition again,” Howard said. “I had to go in and test again for my own part. It’s a rough world.”
Happy Days Star Ron Howard Kept Humility, Taught Costars Lessons
After being on one of the most successful programs in TV history, The Andy Griffith Show, Ron Howard was a name people knew. But he never let that early start in the world of celebrity get to him.
In fact, it was always a point of emphasis for him on Happy Days and throughout his career. It even translated to how he worked with others, such as Potsie actor Anson Williams.
For Williams, the success of the show was the first he’d experienced, at least to that level. Fans called him by “Potsie” almost always, and the young actor wasn’t especially feeling it.
In an interview with On Milwaukee in 2014, he detailed an impactful Howard story.
“The nice thing about it is that when people say ‘Potsie’ there is always a smile on their faces,” Williams said said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to be on the show, to be Potsie. But once, I was complaining to Ron (Howard) about being Potsie all the time and he said, ‘What are you complaining about? I get ‘Richie’ and ‘Opie.’”
“’Anson, you have to earn your name. They know us by the show, but we earn our name.’ He was so right. And now, I think it’s wonderful, wonderful that people know me as ‘Potsie’ and Anson.”