Ron Howard Felt Disrespect on Happy Days

Sitcom star says executives changed toward him when 'Fonzie' became a hit
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 12, 2021 5:10 PM CST
Ron Howard Felt Disrespect on Happy Days
Henry Winkler, who was "The Fonz" on "Happy Days," accepts an award in 2018.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

When Happy Days began its 11-year run in 1974, Ron Howard said, his "Richie Cunningham character was the undeniable lead of the show." Then Fonzie caught on. Henry Winkler's character elbowed Howard's to the side on the sitcom and elsewhere. "When we would go out of the road to promote the show, it was just insane, focused on Fonzie," Howard said. "Clearly that was very exciting." Winkler was "remarkable," he agreed. But Howard didn't like the real-life effect on him, People reports. Studio and network executives "started treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint [and] in terms of interaction," Howard said.

He never had a problem with Winkler or his fame, Howard said on Friday's edition of The Graham Norton Show. "We immediately bonded and became great friends," he said on the show, per Yahoo. "We were a fantastic ensemble—we all got along great." But reporters' questions didn't help. They'd ask, "'Do you feel that you've become a second-class citizen on your own show?' and these kinds of things," Howard said, adding that he didn't feel that change in the workplace. And he didn't feel any effects on his friendship with Winkler.

Howard said the lesson for him was that he was in a tough, competitive business. The experience reinforced that he should "pursue my own dream, which was to be in charge of productions, the stories I wanted to tell and be the filmmaker." He did that, becoming a producer and director in addition to actor, and winning Academy Awards. Throughout, nothing hurt his friendship with Winkler, which "endures to this day," Howard said. "He's the godfather of all four of my kids." (More Ron Howard stories.)

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