Henry Winkler always cut his “Happy Days” castmates some slack, assuming they had the best intentions at heart. And that applied to a decision by Anson Williams, who played Potsie on the show, not to talk about “Happy Days” in interviews.
In a 1979 interview from the Bobbie Wygant Archive, Winkler calmly explained that Williams had other ambitions beyond acting. Williams also likely didn’t want to go down in history as Potsie. For better or worse, that is what eventually happened.
“Every actor has his own way of trying very hard not to be pigeonholed,” Winkler said. “Some are more successful than others at doing it. I know Anson, because I’ve worked with him for five years. And he wants to be a singer. He’s going to cut a record, and stuff like that. And so he wants to— it’s probably his way of saying that, there is more to me, I have other things happening, you know, besides being locked in to one show.”
Watch Winkler’s response here (at 6:30):
Winkler Stayed Humble Despite Show’s Success
Winkler then went on to explain his own perspective on “Happy Days” and future ambitions. He said he tried to stay humble about the fact that “Happy Days” had opened a lot of doors for him.
“The way that I, for my single self, see it, is that it is the sin of pride not to know that whatever happens now in my career, for the next few years, that… the Fonz is certainly responsible for letting me get the opportunity,” Winkler said.
Indeed, the actor really kept his cool even after he became the number one TV star in the world. In a more recent interview with Australia’s Studio 10, Williams marveled at how grounded Winkler stayed during the peak of his celebrity.
“Never put it into anyone’s faces. Always collaborative, always a team player,” Williams recalled. “But it was just quite remarkable to see the effect of that character. And believe me, that character was invented by Henry. He invented that character.”
Williams Joined ‘Happy Days’ Lawsuit
Just because he didn’t want to be pigeonholed after “Happy Days” didn’t mean Williams wanted to give up his share in the show’s success.
In 2011, the actor joined his castmates Don Most, Marion Ross and Erin Moran and the widow of Tom Bosley in suing CBS for breach of contract. Their $10 million lawsuit alleged that CBS had cheated the actors out of money from merchandising. It also claimed the company hadn’t sent them any royalty payments since the early 1980s.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, after the actors filed the lawsuit, CBS sent them checks for the previous five years.
The parties settled the case in July of 2012, 11 days before it was to go to trial. The plaintiffs each received between $60,000 and $65,000, Deadline reported. Winkler and Richie Cunningham actor Ron Howard did not take part in the lawsuit. But the two actors, who were arguably the biggest stars of “Happy Days,” did quite well for themselves even without the merchandising profits they were owed.