Henry Winkler reveals the “debilitating” pain he faced after ‘Happy Days’ ended: “I didn’t know what to do”

TV legend Henry Winkler is currently starring in the final season of HBO’s Barry, the hit dark comedy in which he plays the teacher of the titular hitman-turned-actor.

Of course, Winkler is best known for his earlier TV role playing Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli on Happy Days. With Barry ending, Winkler recently opened up about saying goodbye to the Fonz — and the dark days that followed.

Happy Days ran for 11 seasons from 1974 to 1984. The ’50s-set sitcom was one of the biggest hits of its era, and Fonzie, the epitome of cool, was undoubtedly the show’s breakout character.

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As Fonzie became a cultural icon, Winkler became a major star overnight and received three Emmy nominations for his work. But after a decade of being “the Fonz,” Winkler found the role hard to shake — and it was “happy days” no more.

“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 recently told Today.

Winkler revealed that the post-Happy Days career struggles took a major toll on his wellbeing.

“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. I had a family. I had a dog. I had a roof. Oh. My. God.”

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But that period of rejection ultimately led to better things for Winkler. Still typecast as Fonzie, he turned to directing and producing. He executive produced the TV series MacGyver, which was a huge hit and ran for 7 seasons.

And despite his initial struggles to find work, he returned to acting: he had a memorable recurring role in the beloved sitcom Arrested Development, appeared in the horror classic Scream, is a frequent collaborator of Adam Sandler and was nominated for his guest starring role in The Practice.

Since 2018, he has played Gene Couseneau — a narcissistic acting teacher who gets wrapped up the life of a hitman who becomes his student — in HBO’s Barry, receiving widespread acclaim and winning his first, long-overdue Emmy Award.

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Despite the struggles he faced after Happy Days, Winkler now says he wouldn’t change a thing, and has fond memories of the classic sitcom 50 years later.

“I loved doing it. I loved playing ‘The Fonz.’ I love those people,” he told Today. “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 said that he has spent much of his life searching for authenticity, which he calls the “key to living.”

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The end of Barry is a bittersweet moment for Winkler: he says creator/star Bill Hader hugged him and said “I love you. Thank you for being such a collaborator.”

But this time, he’s ready for whatever comes next: “My destiny is still destiny-ing. I’m still having the best time ever,” he told Today.

We love Henry Winkler and are glad to see he’s doing great decades after Happy Days! We wish him the best with whatever comes next in his incredible career.

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