Veteran actor Henry Winkler is experiencing an exciting new phase in his career, thanks to Bill Hader’s Barry and his creation of the wonderful character Gene Cousineau. But there’s only one name that will be in the first line of Winkler’s obituary, and that is of course, The Fonz. It’s now almost the 50th anniversary of when the comedy series Happy Days began, in 1974. But Winkler will always be the leather jacket and aviator-wearing, motorcycle-riding, and shark-jumping Arthur Fonzarelli.
Happy Days starred Ron Howard, who is now best-known as a drama movie director, as Richie Cunningham – a teen in the 1950s. The series followed Richie’s family and friends, mainly centered around Al’s Diner. Henry Winkler’s Fonzie was initially a small supporting part, but he was massively popular and eventually got joint top-billing with Howard. Richie eventually left the series and the Fonz became the main character.
Winkler said in a recent interview with Today that he struggled to get acting work after Happy Days ended, because people could only see him as The Fonz; “There were eight or nine years at a time when I couldn’t get hired because I was The Fonz, because I was typecast. I had psychic pain that was debilitating because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to find it, whatever it was, I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Winkler says that he wouldn’t change anything if he had his time again though; “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.”
Winkler’s Gene in Barry, like all of the characters, has gone through some massive changes. He started out as a loveable acting teacher in a comedy series, and has become a criminal in hiding in a drama or thriller series. Things changed even more in Barry season 4 episode 5, due to a substantial time jump.
While we’re still reeling from that, check out our guide to the best TV series of all time.