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Henry Winkler has been shoved into trunks, mauled by dogs and chased from a collision at a North Hollywood intersection on HBO’s “Barry.” And he’s enjoying it all.
The actor, who made his mark as greaser Fonzie in the ‘70s sitcom “Happy Days,” is having the time – and workout – of his life as jaded acting teacher Gene Cousineau in the dark comedy.
It co-stars Bill Hader, who plays a low-rent hitman from the Midwest who was hired to execute a hit on an aspiring actor in Los Angeles. In 2018, Winkler won his first-ever Emmy for the role.
But as Season 3 wraps this weekend, with a fourth already approved by the network, the 76-year-old already has plenty on his plate. He recently joined TikTok, all thanks to his granddaughter, and has already 1.3 million followers. And in May, Celadon Books announced that the star’s memoir is slated to drop in 2024.
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Winkler has worked on several previous books, including “I’ve Never Met An Idiot On The River: Reflections on Family, Photography, and Fly-Fishing” and the children’s series “Here’s Hank” and “Alien Superstar,” for which he collaborated with Lin Oliver.
As for what Winkler’s relationship is like with the “Happy Days” cast? His rep says that, “Henry has a wonderful relationship with many of the cast members. He is the Godfather to Ron Howard’s children. When Henry was honored by The Israel Film Festival at a luncheon in Los Angeles last month, Anson Williams and Don Most surprised Henry to celebrate with him.”
Meanwhile, Winkler spoke to Fox News Digital about his physically demanding role on “Barry,” what it was like filming on the same stage as “Happy Days” again, and whether he’ll try on his Fonz jacket for his TikTok followers.
Fox News: This season of “Barry” has been very physical for you. You were even mauled by dogs.
Henry Winkler: I think there were 32 dogs.
Fox News: What was that like for you?
Winkler: OK, between you and me? I made friends with each one of those dogs. I am a dog person. I am not a cat person. I hugged every one of those dogs. I survived. The costume didn’t survive, but I, as a human, did … There’s a scene that is coming up in the finale. If it is the way I remember doing it, and it shows up like that on screen, it might be one of the most intense scenes I have ever done in my entire career.
Fox News: Even more intense than getting mauled by 32 dogs?
Winkler: Getting mauled by 32 dogs was a cakewalk.
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Fox News: It’s been said that “Barry” is probably one of the best things you’ve done in your career. Why?
Winkler: First of all, it is amazingly original. It is amazingly written. There is an expression, “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.” These two men, Alec [Berg] and Bill [Hader], along with their writing friends, are just incredible. Every time you read [the script], you are surprised.
Fox News: It’s also been reported that you shot some of “Barry” at the same stage you filmed “Happy Days.” Take us back to that day of filming. How was it?
Winkler: So, in the last scene of Season 2 we’re on Stage 19 at Paramount Studios. It is the most western part of the studio. It is at the end of Gower Street. That used to be Desilu, the very stage where Lucy [of “I Love Lucy”] developed the three-camera technique, Stage 19. It’s where we did “Happy Days” for 10 years. And now they have built my bedroom in a corner. It is where I wake up and have the realization, “Oh my God, Barry Bergman did it.”
Fox News: It’s amazing that you’re part of TV history in all these different ways.
Winkler: It is amazing. It does not escape me. I am enormously grateful to be at this moment, living this life.
Fox News: You’ve collaborated with all kinds of incredible talent. What’s it been like working alongside Bill Hader?
Winkler: Now you also have to include Alec Berg because these two guys are very different. They are the crème de la crème in their genre. But Bill Hader is absolutely the definition of the word brilliant. He is a cinephile. He is passionate. He is generous. He is strict. He is an improviser. If something doesn’t seem right at that second, he will fix it on the spot.
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Fox News: You’ve been busy in other ways. You got into TikTok at your granddaughter’s request. How’s that going?
Winkler: During the holidays, we get together as a family. We are now the Winkler Weitzman clan, which is 14 strong. So we’re all together. Eating, opening presents. My granddaughter Indya said, “Papa, you have to make a TikTok.” She then curates the music. She then sets up the camera. And now two years in a row, we have made TikToks together. The last one includes her sister Lulu and my oldest grandson Ace. And then I’ve made two TikToks with our newest granddaughter, who’s seven months old, Francis Jone. When she was just born, I wrote a song for her and sang it to her, “The Apple Song.” And one of our TikToks is “The Apple Song.”
Fox News: Do you see yourself modeling any of the Fonz jackets for your TikTok followers anytime soon?
Winkler: Oh, you know what? That’s a very good question. No, I’ve never even thought of that!
Fox News: Well, there’s an idea for content if you need it.
Winkler: It is and I thank you.
Fox News: And there’s more. It was announced that you have a memoir coming out. Could you recall that moment when you realized that you wanted to sit down and write your life story?
Winkler: I have an incredible agent, a literary agent. Her name is Esther Newberg. She is a powerhouse of a human being. She has run ICM Literary for years. My son, Max, who is going to produce and direct a show at HBO and asked me to be in, said to me, “Dad, you should really write a memoir. I really believe you should write a memoir.” And I have never thought I should write a memoir.
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I said to Esther one day, “Max keeps saying I should write a memoir. Isn’t that crazy?” She said, “Do you have your cellphone with you?” I said, “I do.” That was on Friday. On Monday, she told me my memoir was due in 2024 … It never came from, “Hey, I think I’m going to write a memoir.” All I think is what the hell do I write now?
Fox News: Well, here’s a question that maybe could spark some ideas for your first draft if you haven’t already started — What has kept you going as a performer?
Winkler: Joy. Simply put — joy. I love my job … [But] you know what? I was just in Katz’s [in New York City], and there was a young lady by the name of Olivia who was 12 years old. We had a chat about why being dyslexic is not embarrassing … It was amazing. I cannot tell you how many times people write to me and say, “How do you know me so well?” when they read my books. That is an incredible compliment. Because all I did was write what I know, which means that we’re all the same. And if we’re all the same, we should really enjoy each other.
Fox News: And as an actor playing an acting coach, what’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to an aspiring performer in 2022?
Winkler: I would not give advice as Gene because he doesn’t care as long as you’ve got cash. But for a real bit of advice? Relaxation, concentration. Those two words will take you further than you can imagine. When I was young and I was doing plays — we’re talking about college graduate school – I was so not relaxed that I would perspire. I needed two sets of costumes. In 1975, while I was doing “Happy Days,” I did a TV movie. My first television movie was with Sissy Spacek, “Katherine.” All of a sudden, during that moment on set, I just pulled back and relaxed a bit. I stopped sweating. The perspiration had nothing to do with heat. It had to do with nerves working overtime.
Fox News: It’s a piece of advice that could apply to all different types of professions.
Winkler: It’s true. It’s absolutely the truth because everything is connected. Did you know that to be a good fly fisher, when you go for trout, you have to do just that? You have to concentrate on the fly, and you have to relax so that you are ready. You have a quarter of a second to set the hook before the fish figures out that it’s not real.
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Fox News: It’s unknown where your character Gene will go in Season 4. But if he does make it, where do you hope his journey will go?
Winkler: I hope he runs less!
Fox News: For your sake, right?
Winkler: Yeah, really. At three in the morning, running down alleys in Burbank. I did it so many times that the crew finally gave me an applause.
The Season 3 finale airs on Sunday at 10 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.