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Ron Howard gained notoriety as a child actor in The Andy Griffith Show. While he spent eight years on the series as Opie Taylor, he wasn’t particularly interested in continuing his acting career as a young adult. That all changed in the 1970s when he was cast in Happy Days. Howard didn’t return to the small-screen because of his love of acting, though. He agreed to star in the series to avoid being drafted into the military.

Ron Howard agreed to star in Happy Days to avoid the draft

By the time Happy Days rolled around, Howard wasn’t interested in being in front of the camera any longer. After a successful run as a child star, he preferred the idea of a life lived behind the scenes. Howard enrolled at The University of Southern California’s film school intending to go into filmmaking; then, the Vietnam War happened.

Ron Howard attends the Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2020 in Park City, Utah
Ron Howard | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura

Over the years, Howard has recalled, multiple times, that he had an alarmingly low draft number and no medical reason to forgo service. The anxiety of potentially getting called into military action was a bit too much For Howard, so he left school and agreed to star in Happy Days. Howard has said that he figured it would be easier to avoid serving if he was on a show since he’d have the network’s legal team behind him.

Ron Howard wasn’t crazy about the part from the start

Happy Days became a massive success, but that success was not overnight. It took three years for the pilot to air on television, and the series was on the chopping block after its first season due to low ratings. Eventually, the series turned into a massive success, but Howard wasn’t exactly sold on the idea.

The Cast of 'Happy Days'
The cast of ‘Happy Days’ | Bob D’Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Howard wasn’t initially in love with the series’s slapstick comedy and didn’t really think it would be particularly successful. The show was a means to an end, though, and eventually, he began to enjoy his time on the set. While Happy Days changed the course of American television and Howard’s life, he didn’t need to take the role. Howard’s draft number was never called.

Ron Howard admitted he almost quit the series once

While Howard grew to enjoy his time on Happy Days, he was willing to walk away from it, too. During a visit to Entertainment Tonight, Howard recalled how network executives approached him about changing the show’s focus. According to Howard, network executives wanted to capitalize on the popularity of Arthur ‘Fonzi’ Fonzarelli.

Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham and Henry Winkler as Arthur Fonzarelli on 'Happy Days'
Ron Howard and Henry Winkler on ‘Happy Days’ | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Howard told the publication that he said he wasn’t interested in appearing on a series that focused more heavily on Fonzi because that wasn’t what he signed up for. He told the team that he was fine with going back to film school instead of continuing on the series. The idea was scrapped after the conversation, although Fonzi’s role was expanded as the series continued.