Henry Winkler Couldn’t Figure Out Life After Fonzie
When The Fonz jumped the shark back in 1977, it meant the beginning of the end of Happy Days. When Happy Days finally ended six seasons later, Henry Winkler thought that it was his career’s turn to wear the water skis.
Winkler would eventually go on to have one of the most varied and impressive list of credits in all of television with entries in Arrested Development and the soon-to-be-completed hit HBO dramedy Barry, but, in 1984, Happy Days was in Winkler’s rearview in more ways than one. Earlier this week, Winkler opened up to Today about his unusual career arc as he remembered the feeling that Arthur Fonzarelli would be his last great gig. “There were eight or nine years at a time when I couldn’t get hired because I was ‘The Fonz,’ because I was typecast,” Winkler revealed.
It turns out that it takes a decade for Fonzie to find the sweet spot in the entertainment industry where a fist-pound can knock the roles loose.
“I had psychic pain that was debilitating because I didn’t know what to do,” Winkler recalled of his post-Fonzie dry spell. “I didn’t know where to find it, whatever it was, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said, joking, “I had a family. I had a dog. I had a roof. Oh. My. God.”
His first major venture following Happy Days was to open his own television production company, the initial product of which was, fascinatingly, the secret agent thriller MacGyver. However, Winkler’s first and only love has always been acting, and executive producing seven seasons of an Emmy-nominated hit show couldn’t compare to starring in one. Said Winkler of his first of many heydays on Happy Days, “I loved doing it. I loved playing The Fonz. I love those people. I loved learning how to play softball. I loved traveling all over the world together with the cast. I would not have traded it. … Not only that, but also, I don’t know that I would’ve gotten here if I hadn’t gone through the struggle.”
Following Happy Days, Winkler’s inconsistent acting work throughout the 1990s saw him star as himself in numerous projects, lead the short-lived and unloved media sitcom Monty and co-star as an embattled college football coach in Adam Sandler’s Waterboy before landing the role of the perpetually unprepared lawyer Barry Zuckercorn on Arrested Development in 2003. Now, with his Emmy-winning performance as acting coach Gene Cousineau coming to a close with the upcoming series finale of Barry, Winkler finds himself in a familiar position as he prepares to leave an iconic, career-defining role behind — but this time around, he’s not worried about the water skis. “My destiny is still destiny-ing. I’m still having the best time ever,” Winkler bragged.
That’s easy to say now that a snap of his fingers makes the casting directors come running.