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Henry Winkler on His ‘Barry’ Breakthrough and What The Fonz Would Be Doing Today — Turn It On Podcast

Winkler spent years trying to get out from the shadow of his "Happy Days" character, and now he's having another career high. "It's really good to be alive and be Henry!"

Henry Winkler poses for a portrait at his home in Los Angeles. Winkler stars with George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw and William Shatner in "Better Late Than Never," a four-episode reality series documenting their 35-day trip through Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and ThailandHenry Winkler Portrait Session, Los Angeles, USA

Henry Winkler

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock


Henry Winkler has been acting for decades, and continues to be a household name and recognized across the globe. But he still gets giddy when he sees bus bench ads in Los Angeles and subway banners in New York with his face on them.

“It’s one of the greatest pieces of advertisement that I have been a part of in my career,” Winkler said of HBO’s “Barry” campaign. Winkler told IndieWire’s TURN IT ON podcast that he’s eager to get back to work on Season 2 of the show: “I’m like a horse that knows I’m going back to the barn, I’m at a gallop through the months until September.”

It’s a good time to be Henry Winkler. Beyond “Barry,” Winkler is back in his recurring role as Barry Zuckerkorn on Season 5 of “Arrested Development,” he’s an executive producer on CBS’ “MacGyver” revival (now in Season 3), and he has a string of children’s books, among many other things.

“I’m thinking the same thing, I’m not kidding,” he said. “I’ve actually written that to myself and mailed it to myself: ‘Hey, it’s really good to be alive and be Henry,'” he said. “I’m having a wonderful time.”

IndieWire’s TURN IT ON podcast recently sat down with Winkler to discuss his busy career, and of course, his legendary turn as The Fonz on “Happy Days.” Listen below!

“Barry” stars Bill Hader as an assassin who’s in LA on assignment when he finds himself drawn to an acting class. As he struggles to change who he is, it’s when Barry laments his lifestyle that the acting chops come out.

Winkler is getting some of the best reviews of his career for playing Gene Cousineau, Barry’s acting teacher, who’s a bit full of himself but ultimately, sadly, can’t catch a break himself.

“What he cant do on the outside, he does on the inside,” Winkler said of Gene. “The walls of the office and the theater are covered in Gene Cousineau posters. In his theatre, he has built a fiefdom. Outside in the world, he keeps losing commercials to a gecko. In a way, he cares about his students but mostly he cares about whether they can pay on time or in cash.”

Winkler said he remains in awe of what Hader and Alec Berg crafted with “Barry,” which is really two shows in one: What happens to Barry and Sally (Sarah Goldberg) at the acting studio, under Gene’s eye; and Barry’s role as an assassin, under the tutelage of Fuches (Stephen Root), who hires him out to the violent Chechen mob in Los Angeles, led by Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler) and Noho Hank (Anthony Carrigan).

“Here is a man who’s great at being an assassin and hates it, and he’s horrible at being an actor and loves it. And he is trying to reconcile these two lives, but nothing is working.”

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover UsageMandatory Credit: Photo by HBO/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (9695990y)Bill Hader, Henry Winkler"Barry" (Seasdon 1) TV Series - 2018

Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, “Barry”


Winkler said he’s been impressed by the fan reaction, particularly on social media: “I love Twitter, it calms me down,” he says — before noting that the news is changing that. Winkler shares his concern about the state of the nation: “It looks like that America is dripping into oblivion like some water balloon burst… I don’t care if you’re a conservative, an independent, a Democrat, there are rules that have kept our country cohesive. People’s anxiety levels no matter who you are have risen to a point where your blood boils.”

Back to a more pleasant topic: The Fonz. Although Winkler remains affectionate toward the character, he admitted that it took years to escape the icon’s shadow.

“For years people would say ‘wow we love him, he is so good — but he played the Fonz. And I would not get the part,'” he said. “That was up until the mid ’90s. Slowly it started to shift.”

Things really turned around when Winkler started appearing on comedies such as “Arrested Development,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Childrens’ Hospital.”

“I did not understand that show ever,” he admitted.

Now, Winkler said he continues to “love the Fonz. He reads my children’s books. Now he’s an executive. His one garage, the Bronco garage in Milwaukee, has become a franchise across the country. He still wears leather, he sits behind that desk in leather!”

But even though Winkler seems to have a good idea of what the Fonz is up to these days, he’s not keen on a “Happy Days” revisit. “Not me! There’s not enough leather. I don’t know if I could fit inside that jacket!”

Michael Schneider and Henry Winkler


IndieWire’s “TURN IT ON with Michael Schneider” is a weekly dive into what’s new and what’s now on TV — no matter what you’re watching or where you’re watching it. With an enormous amount of choices overwhelming even the most sophisticated viewer, “TURN IT ON” is a must-listen for TV fans looking to make sense of what to watch and where to watch it.

Be sure to subscribe to “TURN IT ON” on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every week. This week’s music by HookSounds.

Special thanks to KROQ’s DJ Omar Khan for the new theme song!

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