‘Happy Days’: Here’s Why Heather O’Rourke Almost Turned Down the Series

by Chase Thomas

Happy Days turned out to be one of the biggest hit sitcoms of the twentieth century, but hindsight is twenty-twenty. There are no guarantees in life, and there was no guarantee the show that starred Ron Howard and Henry Winkler was going to be an American hit program. Obviously, the chips fell how they did and old episodes still air across various networks today.

Heather O’Rourke could have been one of those folks who turned down the opportunity to be part of something special on Happy Days, but that was not the case. She took the role, but it was no guarantee for the star of Poltergeist. As her mother tells it, her hesitation, was not because of the program, but due to the timing of the program. O’ Rourke’s mother explained, “A lot of people said we shouldn’t have done Happy Days because the show had only one more season and it was up against The A-Team, but I think working on that show helped her gain confidence.”

So, it wasn’t that she wanted her daughter not to appear, the Fonz was a gigantic star in the ’80s around this time and it was a big part. Her hesitation made sense, as the show did only have a season left when she was cast to appear. There was not a long-term attraction there, so it was a bit of a risk on that front. The competition with The A-Team likely didn’t help matters. However, it’s nice to know that she seemed to have made the right decision for her daughter as she said it help her in the confidence department.

The Fonz After Happy Days

The Fonz is an iconic character in television in America. Everyone knows about The Fonz, and everybody knows the catchphrases and the looks. Well, so did future casting directors. Winkler, the actor who played The Fonz, struggled to reinvent himself after playing the role. Similar to when Adam Sandler tried to branch out of comedy to more serious roles or Ryan Gosling when he tried to branch out of his early films. Nobody wants to get typecast as a certain kind of player and Winkler was no different. Winkler said, “People would say, ‘Wow, he’s funny. He’s such a good actor. But he was The Fonz.” That is who they saw him as. They couldn’t separate the actor from the character.

He added, “And so they would pass me by. You have to learn to find the strength in yourself to deal with that, reinvent yourself, move on.” Kudos for Winkler of Happy Days to stay after it. He ended up figuring it out. Highlighted, perhaps, by his hilarious comedy role on Arrested Development as the Bluth family lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn.