Happy Days star Henry Winkler was doing a very deep, very thoughtful interview with the BBC.
This was eight years ago and Winkler, aka, the Fonz, talked about everything in his life, from the serious — his dyslexia and his parents escaping the Nazis, to the silly — Winkler joked that his daughter’s addiction to Jimmy Choo shoes cost as much as a mortgage.
And then BBC journalist asked Winkler his thoughts on typecasting. When the 75-year-old Winkler dies, surely the first line of his obituary will be about playing Fonzie on Happy Days. He’s a vivid part of the pop culture tapestry from the 1970s and 80s. There’s no escaping that.
The Happy Days star responded with some motivational thoughts good enough to put in a book.
“I am not bitter at all,” said the Happy Days icon. “I live by two words — tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity got me to this chair. And gratitude doesn’t allow me to be angry about most things. Except my daughter’s use of our credit card. It’s absurd. If your daughter has a credit card allow me now to suggest a shredder.”
He did concede to BBC journalist Stephen Sackur that he thinks about what his life would be like without Happy Days.
“I couldn’t have gotten more,” he said.
Henry Winkler Was So Good, Happy Days Made Fonzie a Full-time Character
Happy Days gave Winkler the rare chance to define a character. When the show premiered in 1974, Fonzie was a recurring character. The show focused on Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham. Yet the country fell in love with Winkler as Fonzie. He became a full-time member of the cast. And soon, the show was all about Fonzie. In 1976 and 77, the season premieres were written about Fonzie. That whole “jump the shark” episode in 1977 was about the show officially shifting to Fonzie as the undisputed star.
Happy Days was pure escapism, as Americans looked to a show about the simpler time of the 1950s to distract from politics or a bad economy. The season before Happy Days came on the air, the most popular shows on TV were All in the Family, The Waltons, Sanford and Son and M*A*S*H. Two of the shows were comedies that broke a ton of TV’s unwritten rules. The other two were dramas set decades before. That explains a lot.
Henry Winkler always had acting roles, post-Happy Days. After five Emmy nominations, he won his first in 2018 for his role as acting coach Gene Cousineau in the HBO dark comedy, Barry. His fellow actors who were attending the Emmys that September night gave him a standing ovation.
He brought out the speech he intended to give if he ever won for Happy Days. You see, playing Fonzie truly is timeless.