WASHINGTON—Actor, comedian, producer, and author Henry Winkler is more than his iconic legacy as The Fonz. In the October/November issue of AARP The Magazine (ATM), the television star opens up about his journey to escaping the beloved Happy Days character’s shadow, reclaiming his identity, and rejuvenating his career after years of typecasting.
In a candid interview with ATM, Winkler discusses his wide-ranging career as he gears up to the release of his memoir Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond, out October 31. One thing Winkler knows is resilience – from struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia as a child, to brief stints in New York Theater, to landing his breakout role as Fonzie, to then not finding roles at all – Winkler has had to dust himself off repeatedly over the decades. After finding success in producing and writing, it wasn’t until he befriended fellow comedian and actor Adam Sandler that he found his love for acting once more, starring in many of his films. Eventually he found himself in HBO’s Barry in what proved to be a breakout role more than 40 years after his first. Winning him his first Primetime Emmy for the role, he proved that setbacks aren’t always permanent.
The following are excerpts from ATM’s October/November 2023 cover story featuring Henry Winkler. The issue is available in homes starting in September and online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
On his career journey:
“The old Henry got me here, but the new Henry is more fun.”
On struggling with dyslexia as a child:
“I was so verbal, yet I couldn’t do anything in school. It drove my parents crazy. They embraced the conclusions of my teachers, which was ‘You’re not living up to your potential,’ which eventually became ‘You are lazy and stupid.’”
On not finding work after Happy Days:
“I knew it was necessary to figure out something else because I was completely stymied. I couldn’t just sit there. I had a family, and I am a doer.”
On being friends with Adam Sandler:
“Adam Sandler is shy. Adam Sandler probably has ADD. Adam Sandler does not dress well. And Adam Sandler is brilliant—and loyal.”
On finally going to therapy:
“I had covered that [childhood trauma] up with a Chernobyl-like layer of cement and let it sit. I’ve spent years digging in, jackhammering that cement into small pieces.”
On his role on Barry:
“Barry is a miracle.”
On his first Primetime Emmy:
“Actors sometimes say, ‘I don’t really care about the winning. I have my Emmy or my whatever, and it’s a doorstop in the bathroom.’ They’re lying!”
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.