‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler Improvised His Audition After Struggling to Read Scripts

Many people may recognize Henry Winkler from Happy Days. He played the iconic greaser who everyone loved.

The actor rose to fame due to his role despite not being the main character initially. The producers even made his character the central focus and wanted to change the title of the series to match. 

Winkler had trouble being able to read his lines, which made his audition tricky. The actor decided to improvise instead. While unconventional, he landed the role that made his career. 

Henry Winkler as Fonzie on 'Happy Days.'
Henry Winkler as Fonzie on ‘Happy Days.’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

‘Happy Days’ is a sitcom from the 70s

From 1974 to 1984, Happy Days aired for 11 seasons on ABC. The cast featured some familiar faces, such as Tom Bosley and Ron Howard. The sitcom became a hit and attracted millions of viewers by the final season. 

The series takes place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during the 50s and 60s. For most of the seasons, the plot focused on a teenager named Richie Cunningham.

The show featured the experiences and dilemmas of the character and his family. Richie left in the latter half of the series, and Fonzie became the center of the show. 

Initially, Happy Days received decent ratings, but the ratings dropped during its second season. So, the producers altered the show to be more family-friendly and filled with gimmicks. Many critics did not enjoy the fact that the producers dumbed down the comedy. 

On the other hand, the viewers fell in love with the series. The ratings increased over the years, and other sitcoms tried following a similar format. 

Henry Winkler starred in ‘Happy Days’

Winkler is an actor and producer who was born on October 30, 1945. Growing up in New York, he decided that he wanted to pursue acting at a young age. The future actor enrolled in Yale University and got accepted into the School of Drama. After graduation, he moved back to New York to start his career on Broadway. 

Winkler moved to Los Angeles in 1973 to work in television. He appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Of course, his biggest role was in Happy Days, where he played the bad-boy heartthrob Fonzie. 

Fonzie is an over-the-top greaser that started as a minor character but got moved to the spotlight. To say that he was popular among viewers would be an understatement. 

People loved him for his rebellious persona and his loyalty to his friends. Fonzie soon became a pop culture icon and appeared on plenty of merchandise. 

Other works that Winkler starred in include Scream and The Waterboy. Besides acting, he worked on Ryan’s Four and MacGyver as a producer. 

Henry Winkler changed his lines during audition


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On-screen, Winkler portrayed a charming and confident demeanor while playing Fonzie. However, what fans may not have known was that he had a difficult time reading his lines. At times, he ended up feeling insecure about himself. 

As it turned out, the actor has dyslexia, according to Mental Floss. He had no idea about it until he received a diagnosis in his early 30s. Still, Winkler struggled with auditioning for Happy Days. The star only needed to read six lines, but he had to make them up on the spot. 

Of course, Winkler’s improvisation did not go unnoticed. The producers overseeing the audition pointed out that none of it was in the script. The actor replied, “I know but I’m giving you the essence of the character and if I get the part I’ll do it verbatim.” 

Needless to say, the producers were no doubt impressed. Winkler would end up playing one of the most iconic characters in TV history.