How Henry Winkler Escaped Fonzie Typecasting by Reinventing Himself After ‘Happy Days’

The incredibly genial Henry Winkler sat down AARP to talk about his instant fame as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli in the seminal 1950s nostalgia television series Happy Days and how he avoided bad boy typecasting by reinventing himself and “staying at the table”.

I love the Fonz. He gave me a roof over my head, but I struggled with being locked out of opportunity because people would, you know, go, “Well, you know, he’s the Fonz.”. So you’ve got this added challenge in front of you: Reinvent yourself. You have no idea what you can do until you just try.

Winkler talked about being dyslexic, his commitment to acting despite the dry spells, and making his own luck.

My lawyer said to start a production company. I said, “I’m dyslexic. I know nothing about business. I can’t do that.” You learn. You learn what you can’t do, and then you get good at it. And then a show goes on the air and then you produce. And as I look at the umbrella of my life as a professional, there were years I couldn’t get hired. …Years of piecemeal and then wonderfulness. You stay at the table. You are tenacious. You know what you want without ambivalence. Boom!

He also talked about the Emmy Award he won at the age of 72 for his role as acting coach Gene Cousineau in Barry in 2018 and how it fit into the context of his extremely fulfilling life.

Only now, in retrospect, do I understand how fortunate I have been. Children to grandma, and they all know me from something else. You do not get there by yourself. “Happy Days.” Garry Marshall. Adam Sandler. Mitch Hurwitz. Michael Schur. Bill Hader. And Alec Berg. I am grateful that I am here, that I am in good health, that I have a beautiful family, that I have two puppies, that I am still enjoying my dream. I am grateful.