Happy Days Are Here Again: Henry Winkler Is Back On Broadway
By Marc Acito
12 Nov 2012
Winkler in The Performers.
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Having grown up a clean-cut kid who was bullied, Winkler relished playing the coolest guy around. "He was my alter ego," Winkler says. "Everyone I wanted to be, the Fonz was." Early on in "Happy Days," Winkler's dyslexic difficulties with hand/eye coordination caused him to nearly crash his prop motorcycle into the director of photography. For every motorcycle scene over the next ten years, he was pulled around on a board, giving new meaning to the show's catchphrase, "Sit on it."
Like his new alter ego Chuck Wood, Winkler suffered a career crisis when "Happy Days" ended: "For about eight years it was really difficult to get a job as an actor because I was typecast. So I started producing and directing. And then I realized I was doing so many jobs, I only wanted to do one — I wanted to act."
A call from Neil Simon to do a cold reading of his new play — a terrifying prospect for someone with dyslexia — brought Winkler back to Broadway in 2000. The Dinner Party, which also starred TV star John Ritter, ran 11 months.
At 66, Winkler now finds himself an in-demand actor, playing roles in three TV series ("Royal Pains," "Children's Hospital" and the anticipated return of "Arrested Development") and the new Kevin James film "Here Comes the Boom." Another call to do a cold reading of a new play still proved terrifying to Winkler, but he couldn't resist the hilarity and humanity of The Performers. Nor could he resist the performers themselves, saying, "Everyone in this play is a home run hitter."
And, of course, there's the lure of the veteran actor's first love. "One of my favorite things," he says, "outside of my family and fly fishing for trout, is going to the theatre. I vibrate when I'm sitting there waiting for the show to start."
Given the subject matter of The Performers, he's bound to feel those good vibrations onstage, too.
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