Henry Winkler talks “Barry” finale, Fonz, family and FanExpo in Pennsylvania
Henry Winkler has created two of the most iconic television characters who are so completely different. I'm talking about Arthur Fonzarelli in "Happy Days" 1973-84, and Gene Cousineau in "Barry" 2018-23, which just wrapped this year.
Winkler will be appearing this weekend, June 2-4, at the FAN EXPO at the Pennsylvania Convention Center along with Michael J. Fox, his Back to the Future costars Christopher Lloyd and Tom Wilson, Joseph Quinn, and Grace Van Dien (“Stranger Things”), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, Rudy), and Vincent D’Onofrio (“Daredevil,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”).
I spoke with Winkler on New Jersey 101.5 in a taped interview, which had to start with the "Barry" ending:
I'm telling you in the middle of the season, you know, there are eight episodes every season. This year, Bill, the genius, decided that he was going to direct them all. And he came up to me in a scene, you know, waiting to shoot a scene. And he said, 'Hey, I want to know how it ends.' I said, 'sure.' He told me, and I went and had an avocado toast because I was so shaken.
I am grateful. I'm going to miss those people that were, you know, whether or not I acted with them, we were in scenes together over the four years. I saw them as they were leaving the makeup trailer, as I was going to the set and they were coming back to change into their clothes and leave the studio. So we were just a wonderful band of vagabonds making a very individual show. I loved it. I loved every second.
I once heard you give a talk about the meaning of family. Can you share that?
Well, what I know for me, is that family, if you're lucky enough to have a cohesive family, literally keeps you above water; in the good times in the band. They support you when you need it, when everything seems to be falling apart, and they cheer you when everything gets back together again. And then, of course, I have two puppies. And I can't say this, but I think I like them better than my children.
You received your first Primetime Emmy, two Critics Choice Television Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, three Primetime Emmy nominations, and three Golden Globe nominations for Screen Actors Guild Awards, and you were doing it wearing Garry Marshall's tie. Now, was it you Henry? Or was it the tie that was doing all the work?
Okay, I am sure it was the lavender tie. But Barbara Marshall, Mrs. Marshall, Gary's wife called me up and said, 'I want to send you something from Gary's closet,' when he passed away. And I thought, the greatest way to honor this man who was my mentor, who literally gave me my Los Angeles life, my Hollywood Life, was to wear his tie in a scene of a character I loved.
Please talk about your relationship with Gary Marshall and you're coming in as a new actor. Fonzie was a minor role that you turned into the lead. You basically took over the show, and how what kind of a role to Gary play in helping you do that?
He was in the room when I auditioned. He was the executive producer. In television, the executive producer runs the show, right? There were three executive producers, Tom Miller and Eddie Melkus, and Gary- Gary was the artistic arm of that triumph for it, and he had faith in me. And, he literally gave me this incredible start to my career that introduced me to the world. I, I owe him everything. Bless his soul.
Fonzie was an inspiration to a generation. How did you deal with that?
What was so interesting is that I was doing my job. I was doing what I would train to do, what I went to school to do, and you have no idea that that's going on. All you're trying to do is figure out how to be the funniest you can be that week. And then we went out, and our, I think, the four boys Ron Howard, Don Most, Allison Williams and me, we went out in and we went to Philadelphia, to Wannemakers, the big department store. And I think that was our first real venture into the world to promote Happy Days, right? And like 25,000 people showed up. Yeah, it was amazing. I mean, you go from nobody knows who you are, except, you know, your immediate family and a few friends, too. All of a sudden, this crowd screamed like we were the Rolling Stones.
Did you ever think when that roll ended, that you would ever come close to Fonzie?
You know what, it was a fear. I sat at my desk at Paramount; my lawyer skip Brittenham, he started a production company for me as part of my compensation. And I sat there at my desk, mortified, and completely, like, shut down. I didn't know what to do. And then that's when I started producing, and MacGyver was the first show.
MacGuyver was an incredible show, and you make that happen. I loved watching you in "Royal Pains,"
And you know, those people are still friends. I watched it with my wife, Stacy. And then I was asked if I would play the father, right, to the two boys. And I was like, so excited. I knew every detail.
Tell us about your relationship with Ron Howard, What did you learn from him?
I'll tell you what I learned from him, humility, and professionalism. There is a story that I've told many times where we're on the set, I didn't like the joke; I was having trouble and I started to beat the script. I started to punch the script, and he's 18 I'm 27, he put his arm around me walking into the back of the soundstage and he said, 'you know, the writers are working as hard as they can. Let's not hit the script.' Ronnie, I will never hit a script again, as long as I live.
You also work with Adam Sandler, another family guy.
Brilliant man, very much a family guy. As a matter of fact, not only his own family, first his parents and his cousins and his brother, then Jackie and the girls, and then the people he met on the dorm floor of NYU where he literally works with those people today.
What advice would you give anyone struggling to make it? You're a great example.
So the first thing I would say is, be honest about your talent. Be honest about your passion because without those two things, you can wish all you want. And it still doesn't mean that you're going to have a successful career. But you must train your talent you must be sure that you want to do this, and then you have to be tenacious. I think tenacity is one of the most important. People who are going to say, 'I don't want to work with you,' and you go, 'Okay, I'll work with this guy.' 'Oh, you don't want to work with me? Fine. I'll work with this guy.' 'Okay. You finally said yes. I'm in.'
To get more info on Henry Winkler's appearance at FAN EXPO Philadelphia click here.
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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