Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Winkler's development

Henry "The Fonz" Winkler talks about the new "Arrested Development" and his upcoming appearance at Wizard World in Philly.

Henry Winkler as "The Fonz"
Henry Winkler as "The Fonz"Read more

* ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. New episodes streaming on Netflix beginning Sunday.

* WIZARD WORLD PHILADELPHIA COMIC CON. May 30-June 2, Pennsylvania Convention Center.

HENRY WINKLER'S living the kind of happy days Arthur Fonzarelli never could have dreamed of.

The actor, producer and author just got back Monday night from Italy, where he was introducing "Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever" - the dyslexic hero of the best-selling series of children's books that Winkler, who's also dyslexic, writes with Lin Oliver - to a new audience.

Later this month, he'll be here for Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, which runs from May 30 through June 2. And starting Sunday, he'll be back on all kinds of screens playing inept lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn, as Netflix begins streaming 15 new episodes of "Arrested Development."

In a phone interview yesterday, Winkler didn't even sound jet-lagged.

Q: How was Italy?

A: I've had an unbelievable relationship with Italy since 1980. I've won the Italian Emmy twice. They are just unbelievably supportive of me and what I do. [For the book], I did incredible interviews on television and then people came - people came in small towns, in bigger towns and there was standing room only. It was amazing.

And they came, of course, to see the television character. They came to see the Fonz. But they were so emotionally touched by Hank Zipzer's journey, trying to figure out why he couldn't figure out school, they totally got it.

It was wowie.

And I ate well.

Q: So do you come to Wizard World because you were the Fonz? Or because of "Arrested Development"?

A: I promise you that the people online come for "Arrested Development," "The Waterboy" [in which he played a coach] and the Fonz. And then children come because they only know me as an author.

Q: Have you done this kind of thing before? What's it like?

A: I've done other appearances like this, and what is amazing is that you get to meet people that you would never normally meet, who like what you do with your life.

I stand on the other side of the table. I do not sit down at a table, so I am face to face with the men and the women and the boys and girls who come to say hello. And the warmth that you pick up in those few minutes is astounding.

It's like a gift.

Q: How do you and Lin Oliver write together?

A: I talk and she types. She has an idea, she types, I wait. She reads it back to me and then we argue over every word. And we have been doing that for 10 1/2 years.

Q: I know that the structure of the Netflix "Arrested Development" is a little different, to accommodate the actors' schedules. What will Mitch Hurwitz [the show's creator] allow you to tell me about them?

A: Mitch will allow me to tell you that, I swear to God, he is a genius walking on earth. And that is no joke. To watch this man in action is shockingly brilliant.

Q: How many of them are you in?

A: I think I'm in nine or 10 [if he's a little vague, it may be because the number of episodes has risen more than once since the project was first announced]. Mitch didn't know how to make a movie all these years later and in two-and-a-half hours bring everybody up to speed on each character. So each episode, or two episodes, catches you up on a character.

Q: And Barry's still in a lot of their lives?

A: Well, you know, he is the family lawyer. And he's fun to have around.

Q: What's your best memory of the original "Arrested"?

A: I went in for an episode. And I stayed for three years. That's a pretty great memory.

Q: Anything else?

A: When I met Michael Cera, he was 15 1/2, I think. And he is now a good friend of my son's. You knew when you met him you were in the presence of something special. He is a very private fellow. He's just very strong-minded.

Jason Bateman was the keeper of the logic. A scene would not get done until the logic was worked out to his satisfaction. He said, "Oh, I said something on Page 32 that doesn't jibe with something I said on Page 42. So how do you want to reconcile that?" He is very precise.

Q: What about the episode in which they arranged to have your character jump over a shark (an homage to the famous shark-jumping incident in "Happy Days")?

A: I'm the only actor in the world who has jumped the shark twice. All of a sudden it [the shark] was there and they said, "Would you do it?" I didn't think twice about it.

Q: You have a reputation for being one of show business' grown-ups - and you write children's books on the side. So why are you so often cast as characters, like the con-man father on "Royal Pains," or Barry, who aren't particularly trustworthy or competent?

A: You know I did train [Winkler has a master's in drama from Yale], and I trained to play every person. I have never been a leading man. I am a character actor. That's my bread and butter.

And then, I don't know if you saw the movie, "Here Comes the Boom," with Kevin James, where I played a music teacher. And that was a surprise, because there was a movie inside that movie you were not expecting. And that was totally type.

Q: Is it true you can't ride a motorcycle?

A: That is so true. I'm so dyslexic I can't figure out what you do with your hand and the foot and the brake and the gear and the boom and the bim and the bob - I can't do it.

Q: Robin Williams' "Mork & Mindy" character was introduced on "Happy Days." What did you think when you first met Robin Williams?

A: "I'm in the presence of greatness."

Q: And what do you think about him coming back to series TV after all these years?

A: I wish him the best of luck. It is so difficult to maintain a career, whoever you are. It is also one of the greatest ways in the world to earn a living, to do a half-hour series that works.

(This interview has been condensed and edited.)

Today on Test your knowledge of the upcoming fall TV season with a quiz from Ellen Gray. Plus, enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card. [Not a subscriber? Use promo code R79M]

On Twitter: @elgray