Although Henry Winkler’s career has found resurgence in recent years thanks to the HBO series “Barry,” the actor recalled a time when his options were gloomier.
After his breakout role as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli in the hit sitcom “Happy Days” ended in 1984 after an 11-season run, Winkler struggled to find work, he recalled in a recent interview with “Today.” And his mental health suffered.
“There were eight or nine years at a time when I couldn’t get hired because I was ‘The Fonz,’ ” Winkler said, “because I was typecast.”
“I had psychic pain that was debilitating because I didn’t know what to do,” he continued. “I didn’t know where to find it, whatever it was, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had a family. I had a dog. I had a roof. Oh. My. God.”
Winkler has been open about his mental health throughout his career. He once spoke about the constant anxiety he felt about his grades while in elementary school, which he would later attribute to having dyslexia.
While living with the learning disorder, “The Waterboy” performer has written 38 children’s books with Lin Oliver, his creative partner and co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which has served as inspiration to children with dyslexia, including Kelly Clarkson’s daughter.
In a 2018 interview with the L.A. Times, Winkler, alongside “Barry” co-creator and co-star Bill Hader, also spoke of the anxiety he feels as a performer while on his way to a shoot.
“I get nervous when I’m driving to work and I’m thinking, ‘Do I know what I’m doing? Do I know how to do this?’ ” Winkler told the L.A. Times. “And once I arrive on set, I have a breakfast burrito — which is one of the reasons I became an actor — and now I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I now look heavy.’ And then I just go to work and somehow it turns out OK.”
He echoed those sentiments in the “Today” interview, saying, “Life is more fun than you think it is, than you allow it to be.
“Don’t worry so much,” he said. “I worried way too much, to the point where it literally made me inert.”
Despite his struggles post-“Happy Days,” Winkler told “Today” that he doesn’t regret his time on the iconic sitcom.
“I loved doing it. I loved playing ‘The Fonz.’ I love those people. I loved learning how to play softball. I loved traveling all over the world together with the cast. I would not have traded it,” he said.
Since being cast in “Barry” as narcissistic acting teacher Gene Cousineau, Winkler has won a Primetime Emmy for supporting actor in a comedy series and has been nominated for two other Emmys, three Golden Globes and four SAG Awards.