Happy Days is one of the most beloved sitcoms that ever hit TV, as it produced some iconic characters through the ’70s and ’80s fans will never forget. And one of the most memorable actors on the show was Henry Winkler, as he played Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli — better known as “Fonzie.”
Winkler has talked at length regarding how he got the part and how he chose to portray Fonzie on the small screen. And it also noted that his “underlying anger” helped him get in the right mindset for the role.
Henry Winkler is known for his role as Fonzie on ‘Happy Days’
Winkler didn’t necessarily have the role of Fonzie in the bag, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the iconic character. Micky Dolenz from The Monkees was Winkler’s competition. But because Dolenz was taller than what producers wanted, Winkler got the part.
Winkler described what it was like auditioning for Fonzie to BUILD Series. “They plucked my unibrow, which hurt. That took about two hours,” Winkler started. “They put me in a T-shirt, jeans, and a MacGregor golf jacket. Very hard to be cool in a golf jacket. I went back in, and this time I convinced [show creator] Garry [Marshall] I would be OK. And I had six lines to begin with, and the rest is history.”
Winkler then credited the change in his voice as one of the reasons he got the role. He noted when he would speak in his typical tone, he lacked confidence, so he had to make major adjustments for the role of Fonzie.
Winkler noted he used his ‘tremendous underlying anger’ to play the part
The actor wasn’t always destined for show business. Winkler had dyslexia, according to NPR. But he didn’t get his diagnosis until he was 31, leaving him in the dark through his childhood and early adulthood.
“I bought into the fact that I was stupid,” Winkler explained during the BUILD Series interview. “My parents called me stupid. My teacher … she called me stupid. You take it along with you.”
Not only did Winkler struggle with his self-confidence, but also explained he had a lot of anger that he channeled into the role of Fonzie.
“I think there was also a tremendous underlying anger,” Winkler noted in an interview, according to the Television Academy Foundation. “There were so many people who tried to be the Fonz. And they forget the undercurrent that was underneath it. It was probably the anger that I had that I didn’t have any idea how to express for being called stupid and being grounded and whatever it is. Just all that cauldron in there.”
Winkler has fond memories from his time on ‘Happy Days’
While it wasn’t always easy playing the part of Fonzie, Winkler noted he never lost sight of how lucky he was to be part of the production.
“I never did not appreciate what the Fonz gave me, what he was, how much fun he was to play, who I got to meet, where I got to travel because I was on that show,” Winkler told the Los Angeles Times. He then noted that Marshall, the show creator, was a “gift” in his life.
While Winkler is known for his role as Fonzie, he’s gone on to do plenty of other great movies and TV shows. And he’s also the successful author of children’s books. And without his role as Fonzie, it’s tough to say if Winkler would’ve ever gotten the confidence boost he needed and deserved.
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