Henry Winkler


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About
About this interview

Henry Winkler starred as "Fonzie" in Happy Days from 1974-84, then began to produce and direct television starting in the '80s while continuing to act- earning his fifth Primetime Emmy nomination as a guest star on The Practice. Winkler says of acting "you have to need to act, because it is such a difficult profession." He discusses his early years, as the child of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, his early passion for acting, and his struggles with then-undiagnosed dyslexia. Winkler chronicles his early career in New York, where he acted on stage and in numerous commercials and his subsequent decision to move to Los Angeles, where he was quickly cast as a guest actor on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He details all aspects of the role for which he became most known, Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli on the hit sitcom, Happy Days. He talks about his casting, the development of the character, working with the cast (particularly Ron Howard and producer Garry Marshall), and the iconic status (and occasional mayhem it generated) of Fonzie as well as his catchphrase --"whoa ". Of developing the character, Winkler says he didn't want it to be a stereotype: "I would never comb my hair. I would never chew gum. I would never wear a Garrison belt, I'd never have cigarettes in my sleeve because every actor who ever played this character did that." He reveals that because of his dyslexia, as "Fonzie" he never actually rode a motorcycle. He speaks about fame and celebrity, and being grateful he experienced this later in life, when he could fully appreciate it. Winkler chronicles his transition to directing and producing, which included being executive producer of MacGyver, and his later acting projects including Arrested Development  and The Practice. Of producing he says "you must have passion, and you must tell stories that really illuminate the human condition. That's our job." Henry Winkler was interviewed in Los Angeles, CA on November 10, 2006; Karen Herman conducted the two-and-a-half-hour interview.

"If you know what you want, and you keep your eye on the prize and you move toward it there is no reason you cannot live your dream."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Henry Winkler on how The Fonz never could ride a motorcycle
Henry Winkler on the genesis of Fonzie's "whoa"and the "thumbs up"
Henry Winkler reveals the origin of Fonzie's character
Henry Winkler on satirizing his iconic character "Fonzie" on Arrested Development; and jumping the shark... twice!
On advice to actors and producers starting out in the business 
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood, parents, and sister 
On growing up; his dyslexia and anxiety
On his childhood dreams, wanting to act
On what he did to make his dream of being an actor a reality in school, theater
On auditioning for Yale Drama School; his experience with the New Haven Free Theater
On graduating from Yale, working in theater in Long Island at his first professional job
On his first job in television and losing his first film job, and struggling with finding work

Chapter 2

On taking commercial television work (Sanka Coffee, etc) early in his career to enable him to perform in the theater
On the "Great American Dream Machine" and "Off the Wall New York", an improv group
On his first film role in "The Lords of Flatbush" with Peter Boyle
On taking a rish by moving to California, getting cast as a bit part on Mary Tyler Moore
On getting cast on Happy Days
On his Happy Days character, Fonzie
On the cast of Happy Days
On the relationship between Fonzie and Richie, and Chachi
On Jerry Paris, Happy Days ' director

Chapter 3

On the crew behind Happy Days, the show's infamous baseball team
On crafting the voice of The Fonz on Happy Days
On the famous "jumping the shark" episode of Happy Days
On handling fame
On a typical production week on Happy Days
On some specific episodes of Happy Days

Chapter 4

On enjoying the perks of fame, going to the White House
On his favorite episode of Happy Days
On other film roles, "Heroes", "Night Shift"
On working with Ron Howard as a director
On being typecast as The Fonz, starting his own production company and becoming a producer/director
On producing the show MacGyver
On directing Tim Conway's Funny America
On the lessons he learned from "Monty" about acting, directing, and producing- "listen to your instinct"
On some other projects he acted and directed in with Katharine Hepburn

Chapter 5

On directing sitcoms
On his appearance in "Scream"
On being nominated for an Emmy on The Practice but never winning a Primetime Emmy award
On returning to his roots in theater
On fellow actor John Ritter
On producing The Hollywood Squares; appearing on Law And Order
On his work on the cult show Arrested Development
On Out of Practice and current projects
On writing children's books
On advice to actors and producers starting out in the business 
Shows

Arrested Development

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Henry Winkler on his work on the cult show Arrested Development

Dave's World

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Henry Winkler on directing for Dave's World

Happy Days

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Henry Winkler talks about getting cast as "The Fonz" on Happy Days; why Fonzie never rode a motorcycle or combed his hair, and the genesis of his catchphrase "whoa"
Henry Winkler ("Arthur Fonzarelli" aka "The Fonz") talks about the cast and director of Happy Days
Henry Winkler on how he was cast as "Fonzie' on Happy Days , and how the network originally wanted someone bigger for the role
Henry Winkler on celebrity and using "Fonzie's" catchphrases in public
Henry Winkler on crafting the voice of the Fonz on Happy Days
Henry Winkler on the inspiration for 'The Fonz'
Henry Winkler on what became the infamous "jumping the shark" episode of Happy Days
Henry Winkler on a typical production week at Happy Days
Henry Winkler on the episode "Fonzie Gets Married"
Henry Winkler on the episode "Fonzie Moves In"
Henry Winkler on Fonzie's love life
Henry Winkler on the "Dance Contest" of Happy Days
Henry Winkler on the "My Favorite Orkan" episode of Happy Days
Henry Winkler on his favorite episode of Happy Days and how his character changed

Hollywood Squares, The

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Henry Winkler on producing Hollywood Squares and popular "square" Paul Lynde

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

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Henry Winkler on Law and Order

MacGyver

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Henry Winkler on producing MacGyver

Mary Tyler Moore Show, The

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How Henry Winkler's ad-lib got him hired for an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show five days after he arrived in L.A.

Monty

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Henry Winkler on the lessons he learned (trust your instinct) from Monty

Out of Practice

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Henry Winkler on Out of Practice

Practice, The (1997-2004)

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Henry Winkler on being nominated for an Emmy on The Practice but never winning a primetime Emmy
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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Henry Winkler explains why his character "Fonzie" wouldn't comb his hair on Happy Days and describes the iconic character and his mannerisms
Henry Winkler explains when his character "Fonzie" first said "whoa" on Happy Days
Henry Winkler on using the Fonz's catchphrases in public
Henry Winkler on Fonzie's phrases and powers
Henry Winkler on how the Fonz changed from the beginning of Happy Days to the end
Henry Winkler on being typecast as the Fonz from Happy Days
Henry Winkler on the influence of MacGyver on pop culture
Henry Winkler on satirizing his iconic character "Fonzie" on Arrested Development ; and jumping the shark.. twice

Classic TV series episodes

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Henry Winkler on classic episodes of Happy Days

Comedy

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Henry Winkler on satirizing his iconic character "Fonzie" on Arrested Development ; and jumping the shark.. twice

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Henry Winkler on his mentors and advice to actors entering the business

Emmy Awards

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Henry Winkler On being nominated for an Emmy on The Practice but never winning a Primetime Emmy award

Fame & Celebrity

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Henry Winkler on fame and celebrity
Henry Winkler on handling fame
Henry Winkler on the popularity of his character on Happy Days
Henry Winkler on enjoying the perks of fame, going to the White House
Henry Winkler on respect and camraderie in the acting business

Pop Culture

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Henry Winkler on crafting the voice of the Fonz

We Laughed

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Henry Winkler explains how his character "Fonzie" first said "whoa" on Happy Days
Professions

Actor

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Henry Winkler on what it took to land a job in Hollywood at the start of his career
Henry Winkler on developing the character "Fonzie" for Happy Days
Henry Winkler on how acting is never a solo effort
Henry Winkler on being glad he didn't experience fame until he was older and able to handle it
Henry Winkler on an important lesson he learned from Garry Marshall about respect on the set
Henry Winkler on the importance of listening to your own instinct when deciding on projects and roles
Herny Winkler on letting a character grow organically on The Practice - a role which later earned him an Emmy nomination
Henry Winkler on advice to aspiring actors and producers "you have to need to act"; and you must train, and you must be passionate about your work

Directors

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Henry Winkler on the value of listening to everyone on a set

Producers

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Henry Winkler on an important lesson he learned from Garry Marshall about respect on the set
Henry Winkler on advice to aspiring actors and producers "you have to need to act"; and you must train, and you must be passionate about your work
People

Richard Dean Anderson

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Henry Winkler on casting Richard Dean Anderson in MacGyver

Scott Baio

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Henry Winkler talks about the talents of Scott Baio on Happy Days and the relationship between characters Fonzie and Chachi

Tim Conway

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Henry Winkler on directing Tim Conway's Funny America

Wes Craven

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Henry Winkler on working with Wes Craven in "Scream"

Barry Diller

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Henry Winkler on auditioning for Barry Diller and Michael Eisner at ABC

Olympia Dukakis

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Henry Winkler on doing commercials with Olympia Dukakis

Michael Eisner

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Henry Winkler on auditioning for Barry Diller and Michael Eisner at ABC

Katharine Hepburn

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Henry Winkler on working with Katharine Hepburn in "One Christmas"

Ron Howard

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Henry Winkler talks about the amazing talents of Ron Howard, working with him on Happy Days and the chemistry between Fonzie and Richie
Henry Winkler on working with Ron Howard as a director

Paul Lynde

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Henry Winkler on Paul Lynde of Hollywood Squares

Garry Marshall

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Henry Winkler on the "genius" of Garry Marshall and the way he ruled "with a velvet hand" over the cast of the cast of Happy Days
Henry Winkler on learning his producing style from Garry Marshall

Tom Miller

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Henry Winkler on how Tom Miller was instrumental in casting him as "Fonzie" on Happy Days

Jerry Paris

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Henry Winkler talks about working with director Jerry Paris on Happy Days

John Ritter

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Henry Winkler on fellow actor John Ritter

Marion Ross

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Henry Winkler talks about how lucky he was to know and work with Marion Ross on Happy Days

Sylvester Stallone

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Henry Winkler on how Sylvester Stallone was an inspiration for Fonzie on Happy Days

Robin Williams

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Henry Winkler on working with the talented Robin Williams on Happy Days

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