Five Minutes with Henry Winkler
by Cathy Corcoran
Henry Winkler may be best know to generations of TV viewers as Arthur Fonzarelli, aka “The Fonz,” in the TV series Happy Days. He has appeared in more than a dozen TV series, has produced and directed programming for both TV and the big screen and currently co-stars as acting teacher Gene Cousineau on the hit HBO dark comedy, Barry. He is also an executive producer of the new MacGyver series currently airing its second season on CBS.
Winkler has also produced several children’s TV programs for PBS, and other platforms. He and his co-author, Lin Oliver, are New York Times bestselling authors, with 34 children’s novels to their credit, including the popular Here’s Hank series featuring dyslexic fourth grader Hank Zipzer. The books are based on Winkler’s experiences as a student with learning challenges, and have sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.
Who is the person (persons) you most admire? And why?
Gary Marshall (creator of Happy Days, director of Pretty Woman and many other movies and TV shows.)
With all of his creativity, with all of his accomplishment, with all of his success, I never saw Gary disrespect a single person. He treated the studio janitor and the major star exactly the same, with kindness and respect.
What have you accomplished in your career that has given you the most joy?
My projects are like my children - I don’t have a favorite. Every time I get a job, whether it’s a TV show, a movie or a book, I say, “This - this! - is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
My writing partner Lin Oliver says, “But you said that about the last project.”
My answer? “Yeah, but this time I really mean it.”
What mistake do you think you learned the most from? And why?
In the past, I sometimes allowed my worry and my anxiety to throw me to the mat. What I learned eventually is that if you have will, tenacity and gratitude, you will eventually win.
If you were not working in media, what would you be doing instead?
I would be working with children, encouraging them and making sure that their self image was as strong as an evergreen.
What is something that most people don't know about you?
I’ve done so many interviews, I honestly don’t think there’s anything that people don’t know about me.
What do you wish you’d known when you started in your career?
When they say that youth is wasted on the young, they’re not kidding. I wish I had known myself better back then. I would have relaxed a whole lot more and enjoyed myself along the way.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be doing a third season of Barry,”which I love, and we have a brand new book series coming out. I’m open to all kinds of things.
What would you like to say that we didn’t ask you?
I knew Brandon Tartikoff and I’m very honored that I was chosen for this award. Our children went to the same pre-school and we used to see one another when we dropped the kids off at school. The man was a genius.
Winkler was happy to report that, in addition to being available in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and other languages, his children’s books are now being translated into braille.
He said that, because of his dyslexia, he always placed in the bottom 3% of all Americans in terms of academics. “You never get over this, but I’ve learned to work around it,” he says. “Every child I meet, I tell them - whether they want to hear it or not - that no matter what happens in school, no matter how the teachers treat you or what the other kids say about you, it has nothing to do with how brilliant you are inside.”