‘Happy Days’: How Arnold Actor Pat Morita Started His Acting Career

by Joe Rutland
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Pat Morita is known for a few roles in his show business career. “Happy Days” fans know him as Arnold, yet how did this man become an actor?

Morita sits down for an interview with the Archive of American Television and talks about it.

“I found my way working for, what would become, a giant in the aerospace industry,” he said. “It was an outfit called the Aerojet General Corporation.”

Morita goes on to talk about his role, the long hours, and sedentary lifestyle he was living.

‘Happy Days’ Actor Only Found One Answer For His Life Within His Heart

He said that his weight rose to 190 pounds and he started losing his hair, all at 27 years old.

“I looked in the mirror and said, ‘You know, Morita, you can’t do this the rest of your life,'” the “Happy Days” star said. “‘There’s only one way to do this if you want to do it and that’s to go back to school.'”

But that didn’t appeal to him. Morita, though, said he told himself to look deep within his heart and spirit.

“If God gave you one wish in your lifetime to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?” he said. Morita said no matter how hard he looked within himself, the same answer appeared: go into show business.

Morita Sets His Sights On Becoming MC/Comedian As New Career

“Show business?” he said mockingly. “You can’t sing, you can’t dance, you can’t act, you can’t juggle, you can’t strip.” But he figured out one thing he could do and that was talk.

“I’m a good talker,” Morita, who played on “Happy Days” for a combined eight seasons, said. “I know what I’ll do. I’ll learn to be an MC/comedian.” “MC” stands for master of ceremonies, a role that would be for roasts or banquets. “I’ll learn how to make people laugh.”

Morita then refers to having that Jiminy Cricket voice on his shoulder saying “you can’t” do this or that.

“I made up my mind at age 30 that that was it,” he said. “I said, ‘If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it and for the rest of my life I’ll kick myself in the you-know-what and be sorry.'”

TV and movie appearances made up a lot of Morita’s show business life. Of course, movie fans know Morita for playing Mr. Miyagi in “The Karate Kid” films. Disney movie fans will recognize his voice as the Emperor of China from 1998’s “Mulan” and the follow-ups”Mulan II” and “Kingdom Hearts II.”

Morita died on Nov. 24, 2005, at 73 years old from kidney failure.

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