In late 2019, Winkler joined actor Alec Baldwin who interviewed him about his expansive career. Of course, the pair’s conversation turned to Happy Days, which put Winkler on the map. Winkler was just as surprised as anyone else that his character “The Fonz” took off the way it did.
In fact, the writers of the show intended for Fonzie to be a bit part in the beginning. The show’s main focus was supposed to be on Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his family. However, that shifted as Winkler’s character began to steal the spotlight.
While speaking with Baldwin on Inside the Actors Studio, Winkler admitted his character’s success shocked him. Especially since Howard was Happy Days‘ “intended star.” Eventually, the two actors confronted the elephant in the room.
“My feelings were hurt, but it’s good for the show,” Howard allegedly said to Winkler.
Henry Winkler and Ron Howard Open up on Long Car Ride
During the Inside the Actors Studio interview, Baldwin asked Winkler about his relationship with Howard.
“There’s an intended star of the show, and that person doesn’t always end up remaining the star of the show,” said Baldwin. “This was a show that was really built around Ronnie.”
As everyone knew, Howard came to the Happy Days set fresh off of his time growing up as part of The Andy Griffith Show cast.
“I was supposed to be seven out of 13, which meant I was only supposed to be in seven out of the 13 shows each cycle,” Henry Winkler said to Alec Baldwin. “[But] The Fonz has taken off.”
It took a long, awkward car ride home together for the two actors to finally open up to one another.
“The fourth year, we went to a dude ranch and did a two-parter, riding wild bulls. I had to sit on a bull,” Winkler remembered. “Ron Howard drove me home in his VW. And I said, ‘Ron, tell me now. How are you feeling? We haven’t talked about this.’”
“He said, ‘You didn’t do one thing other than be good at what you’re doing,’” Winkler explained. “‘You never do anything on the set where you try to be the star. And it’s good for the show. My feelings were hurt, but it’s good for the show.’”
Howard may have had his feelings hurt by the success of Fonzie. Yet the actors always worked well together on set.
“He was one of my most wonderful acting partners ever,” said Henry Winkler. “We could do a scene — we could read it, rehearse it, memorize it, and shoot it three times in 20 minutes. There was a thread between us that was amazing.”