‘Happy Days’: John Travolta Auditioned for Major Role on Show

by John Jamison
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Anson Williams was the perfect fit for Potsie Weber on “Happy Days.” He’s a talented singer and is believable as a gullible best friend to Richie Cunningham. But something even he didn’t find out until years later is that he beat John Travolta out for the role.

From 1974-1984, Anson Williams portrayed Potsie in 220 episodes of the show. It’s hard to imagine anyone else taking his place alongside Richie and Ralph Malph, especially someone as now-famous as John Travolta. But apparently, the eventual “Grease” star was in contention for the role. And he definitely had the skillset for it, based on his performance in the classic musical.

But Anson Williams had what “Happy Days” was looking for. Whether it was how he interacted with Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, and Don Most, or if it was something else entirely. In an interview with Studio 10 in 2017, Williams talked about how he found out Travolta auditioned for the role.

“You know it’s funny. I didn’t even know he auditioned until I was interviewed by Marilu Henner and she told me, years later,” Anson Williams said. “Well, I told Marilu to tell John I saved his career, by me getting the part and not him.”

We may never have seen a John Travolta-led “Grease” if he landed the Potsie role on “Happy Days.” The show was a sensation in the 1970s and early 1980s. And based on Ron Howard’s decision to step away to focus on his directorial career, it wasn’t exactly easy for the show’s main cast to work on other projects.

In some alternate universe, there could be a version of “Happy Days” starring John Travolta. And it’s not crazy to think that “Grease” could have starred Anson Williams.

‘Happy Days’ was ‘Lucky Break’ for Potsie Actor Anson Williams

Anson Williams is grateful that he landed the “Happy Days” role over John Travolta. He joked about how he saved Travolta’s career by doing so, and he very well may have. But that doesn’t mean the experience was a burden for him.

On the contrary, Williams raved about his fellow cast members and the opportunity he was given on the classic show.

“It was such, just a remarkably lucky break for me. Not only for doing the show which was like tremendously fun,” Williams continued in the interview. “But this group of people that Garry Marshall put together, just phenomenal individuals. The friendships that were created are even more important than the show.”

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