Beverly Hills, Calif. – Henry Winkler is smart enough to know that working on HBO’s dark comedy “Barry” has never been a great opportunity for long-term job security.
Never mind that the “Happy Days” icon, 77, won her first Emmy Award, playing brilliant, dramatic acting teacher Gene Cosino, and mentor to drama student Barry Berkman (star and executive producer Bill Hader).
Winkler’s fear that the forgetful gene would be beaten or killed by Barry’s secret double life as a hitman was very real.
“At the beginning of every season, I had one question for Bill: Am I dead?” Suddenly serious during lunch at his favorite Beverly Hills bistro, Winkler says. “So many people have died. Should I kill?”
With Hader announcing that “Barry” season 4 will be its last (the series returns Sunday, 10 p.m. EST/PDT), it’s the end of the line for everyone, including Jen.
“I’m sad the job is over,” Winkler says. “I love this character. It totally redefined my character. I have the same feeling for Barry that I had when ‘Happy Days’ ended. How am I going to do anything as poignant as this?”
The final season of Barry on HBO:Watch the trailer for Season 4 with Bill Hader
Winkler’s career exploded with Happy Days
So says Winkler, who celebrates 50 years of his television acting career in 2023 after first appearing on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as dinner date Rhoda (Valerie Harper) in 1973.
Of course, Winkler turned into an era-defining global star a year later with his breakout role as the leather jacket-clad Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on ABC’s “Happy Days,” which brought him 5,000 fan letters a week.
“My Plan A was to become an actor. Suddenly, I was in 126 countries. I lived Plan A to within an inch of her life,” says Winkler. “I didn’t have a plan B.”
“Happy Days” cruised through 11 seasons, recovering even after inspiring a term now popular in popular culture for a show in decline — “jumping the shark.” The phrase originated in a season 5 episode in which the surfer Fonz, still wearing his leather jacket, jumped over a shark pool.
Winkler always gleefully embraced the phrase, even if he didn’t agree that the “happy days” were losing steam at the time.
“There was a period in year eight and nine when some of the stories got a little silly,” Winkler says. “But the Happy Days writers were exceptional.”
The Fonz was so indelible that Winkler struggled to find set roles after “Happy Days” ended in 1984, executive producing hit shows like “MacGyver” and teasing roles like Coach Klein in 1998’s “The Waterboy” alongside Adam Sandler.
There is a scene where I am talking to A A child in a child’s voiceWinkler says. She’s done it at least nine times in all different ways until she made Adam Sandler laugh. “
He played Sandler’s father in 2006’s Click, which was filmed shortly after Sandler’s real-life father died in 2003. “It was such an honor that he chose me,” Winkler says. On television, he excelled as clueless lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn in 32 episodes of Arrested Development.
However, when Winkler auditioned for the role of Cousineau in “Barry,” Winkler shocked HBO executives with a scene that showed a flash of black comedy rage.
“That’s when I’m talking to my student, and all of a sudden she closes the table and says, ‘This is (expletive)’,” says Winkler. “Later, they told me the HBO people didn’t know Henry had that in him.” I can go from zero to revolution in one minute.”
Winkler showed the gamut of emotions playing the self-involved, often profound drama guru, including a deep love for LAPD detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsom), who is assassinated by Barry in the season one finale. When Gene discovers the full scope of Barry’s misdeeds, including killing Moose, that scope becomes completely dark with rage by the end of Season 3, and he coldly hands Barry over to the police. (He is now in jail.)
“If you thought it was dark,” Winkler warns. “You’re going to need a flashlight for what’s coming this season.”
Bill Hader Says “The Hardest Thing He Pushed Him To Be Tough”
This side of winkler Hader was impressed.
“Henry is such a sweet guy. The hardest thing is getting him to be tough because Henry isn’t a tough guy. But he does it perfectly,” says Hader, who directed all eight episodes of the final season. “And Henry knows exactly how to play comedy.”
Winkler, who keeps his supporting cast Amy in the Beverly Hills home office he shares with Stacy, his wife of 45 years, may be grieving the end. But he respects Hader and co-creator Alec Berg’s decision to end “Barry” with a tight four seasons.
“They were very clear about what they wanted and where they were going. When they saw the end, what am I or (is) anyone going to say?” Winkler says. “Besides, how many shows have gone beyond welcoming them…or even jumping the shark?”
Who knows better than Winkler, who also jumped a shark (on a dock) in the Arrested Development tribute.
“By the way, I’m the only actor on Earth who’s ‘jumped the shark’ twice,” he says proudly.
Winkler has new projects in the pipeline, including his memoir, Being Henry: Fonz and Beyond (released October 31, the day after his 78th birthday) and his 38th children’s book, Detective Duck (co-written with Lyn Oliver, October 17). He sneers at the word “retired”—”never crossed my mind,” he says, repeating the sentence slowly for emphasis.
Henry Winkler, the unlikely dance star of TikTok
With the encouragement of his six grandchildren, he has become a TikTok dance sensation, with frequent videos showing smooth moves and 1.4 million followers.
“This one has 2.4 million views,” he said loudly as he scrolled through his TikTok feed. “But it never dawned on me that I had to do TikTok without my grandkids.”
Winkler also knows the ultimate secret of the near future: how Barry will bow in the May 25 finale.
Fear returns even to talk about it. “I know how it’s going to end. But you’ll never get it from me,” Winkler says. “Because I’ll be dead then.”
. “Friendly writer. Unapologetic student. Typical internetaholic. Social media ninja. Communicator. Music fanatic.”