‘Little House on the Prairie’: Melissa Gilbert Explained Why Henry Winkler Asked Her to ‘Act Like a Hamburger’

by Jennifer Shea
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“Little House on the Prairie” actress Melissa Gilbert had a star-studded childhood. As a kid, she regularly ate lunch with some of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities at the time.

For example, “Little House on the Prairie” was filmed on the same lot as “Mork & Mindy” and “Happy Days,” among other shows. And the stars from all the various television shows would congregate in the same cafeteria at lunchtime.

It was there that Gilbert got to see stars like Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. And Winkler in particular really left an impression on her.

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert Tells Story

In Gilbert’s book “Prairie Tale,” she recounts how Winkler used to challenge her to act out food items when they met in the cafeteria.

“I used to meet up in line with Henry Winkler, one of the loveliest people in the business,” Gilbert wrote. “As they’d say in ‘Prairie’ speak, he and I took a shine to each other. We’d act out what we were having for lunch.”

So if Gilbert had a hamburger for lunch, Winkler would dare her, “I want to see you act like a hamburger.” At first, Gilbert found Winkler’s game peculiar. But over time, she got into the game and started looking forward to it.

‘The Fonz’ Was Winkler’s Breakout Role

Winkler would go on to win two Golden Globe Awards for his portrayal of “The Fonz” on “Happy Days.” He also received three Emmy Award nominations for the role.

Winkler’s success at playing Fonzie had the unintended consequence of upstaging Howard, who was the intended star of the show. Winkler told “Inside the Actors’ Studio” that he and Howard finally had a chat about that a few years into the show.

“I said, ‘Ron, tell me now. How are you feeling? We haven’t talked about this,’” Winkler recalled. “He said, ‘You didn’t do one thing other than be good at what you’re doing. 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.’”

After “Happy Days,” Winkler turned his attention to directing. He produced and directed numerous TV shows and movies, from “MacGyver” to “Scream” and “The Waterboy.”

And he has written 12 children’s books, per IMDB. The books draw their inspiration from Winkler’s childhood battles with dyslexia.

Winkler also does his share of charity work, according to Biography.com. In particular, he works with the Epilepsy Foundation, Toys for Tots and multiple groups benefiting underprivileged youth.  

Outsider.com