- Ron Howard said studio executives were disrespectful after The Fonz became popular on “Happy Days.”
- Howard’s Richie Cunningham was the lead, but Henry Winkler was “remarkable” as The Fonz, he said.
- The two men are still good friends and Winkler is the godfather to Howard’s children.
Ron Howard revealed that top studio and network executives involved with “Happy Days” treated him “with a lot of disrespect” after Henry Winkler’s Arthur Herbert “The Fonz” Fonzarelli became more popular than his character, Richie Cunningham.
In an exclusive clip from Friday’s upcoming episode of “The Graham Norton Show,” Howard explained that while Richie was meant to be “the undeniable lead” of “Happy Days,” Winkler was “remarkable” as The Fonz from the very first episode.
“We immediately bonded and became great friends. We were a fantastic ensemble, we all got along great,” he told Norton of Winkler.
While it was “exciting” for Howard to watch the viewers fall in love with Winkler as Fonzie, he said “the studio heads” and “network heads” started “really treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint, just in terms of interaction.”
“The press kept saying, ‘What’s it like? Do you feel that you’ve become a second-class citizen on your own show?'” Howard said. “Which I didn’t feel within the workspace. And I certainly didn’t feel it within our friendship [with Winkler], which endures to this day.”
In fact, not only did the two men enjoy a close bond while working on “Happy Days,” Howard told Norton that Winkler is godfather to all four of Howard’s children, including actress Bryce Dallas Howard.
Moreover, his experience on the ABC sitcom pushed Howard, now an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, to become more serious about his dream to take charge behind the camera, producing and directing his own films.
Winkler separately told Insider in October that he kept getting passed over for comedy roles after “Happy Days” because people still saw him as The Fonz.
“People would say, ‘Wow, he’s funny. He’s such a good actor. But he was The Fonz,'” Winkler said. “And so they would pass me by. You have to learn to find the strength in yourself to deal with that, reinvent yourself, move on.”
Watch Howard’s full interview on “The Graham Norton Show” on BBC America on Friday at 11 p.m. ET.