Henry Winkler credits landing the role of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli to an accent he made up on the spot during his “Happy Days” audition.
Winkler spoke with CNN's Chris Wallace about his long career in Hollywood and revealed that as a Jewish kid from Manhattan, he was surprised he was cast at age 27 as The Fonz, the unflappable, cool rider in the Milwaukee-set “Happy Days” sitcom.
Wallace asked Winkler how he transformed into the “epitome of cool” in a new episode of “Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?”
“Because I trained for many years to be an actor, and I got to play somebody. I wasn't somebody I wanted to be,” Winkler replied, adding, “And it was so much fun. They are still my family. All of the people who have survived are still very, very close. We are incredibly friendly.”
Winkler said producers originally envisioned The Fonz as “a taller Italian kid.”
“And they got you know, this short Jew from New York, but all I did, Chris, all I did was change my voice,” Winkler recalled. “I introduced myself as Henry, and then as I started to do it, something overtook me … And I changed my voice like this, and it unleashed me.”
Winkler said he just went with it and, in doing so, became braver in acting, while in real life, he said he still felt like “a bowl of jello that had not congealed yet.”
Noting that TV Guide ranked The Fonz as number four out of the 50 greatest characters in the history of television so far, Winkler called the recognition “insane” to him.
New episodes of “Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?” debut Fridays on HBO Max and Sundays on CNN at 7 p.m. ET.