Tuesday , May 21 2024
Henry Winkler at Fan EXPO Boston (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Fan EXPO Boston: Henry Winkler on positivity and his career

Henry Winkler (Happy Days, Parks and Recreation, Barry) received a warm welcome at Fan EXPO Boston on August 4. The Emmy Award-winning actor has spent 50 years in Hollywood in a successful film and television career. He’s also no stranger to Boston, as he attended Emerson College.

Winkler struggled with dyslexia throughout his school years and beyond. He shared words of encouragement with younger Fan EXPO audience members. He said, “To the children that are in this audience, if you are having a hard time learning, if you are having a hard time in school, how you learn has nothing to do with how brilliant you are.”

Early on, he really wanted to become an actor, but he faced firm opposition at home. “My parents wanted me to take over the family business, which was buying and selling wood. I did not want to buy and sell wood. I wanted to be an actor. The only wood I was interested in was Hollywood!”

On Overcoming Negativity

Because of the challenges in his life, Winkler looked to philosophers for ways to deal with negativity. He eventually found answers in P.D. Ouspensky’s writing. Winkler said, “If you put a period on the end of a negative thought, it grows into a thesis of negativity. You’re walking to your dream, you get a negative thought, it stops you dead.”

Rather, it’s important to break that cycle by stopping the negative thought and replacing it with a positive thought. “When you have a negative thought put into your mind, you say out loud, ‘Sorry, I have no time for you now.’ People will look at you very strangely, but eventually it becomes your habit.”

Photo of Henry Winkler
Henry Winkler at Fan EXPO Boston (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Instead of being inhibited by his dyslexia, Winkler always dedicates a lot of time to studying his scripts. First, he reads a script through over and over. Sometimes he painstakingly reads one word at a time to himself. “If you need to memorize it, think about who you’re talking to, what to you want from the person you’re talking to, and pretty soon, it stays in your head.”

On Meeting Robin Williams

Winkler has enjoyed working with many comedic actors including Adam Sandler and Ben Schwartz. To him, Robin Williams ranks as the top comedian, coming in for Happy Days as Mork the alien. Winkler recalled, “They couldn’t hire an actor to play this character. Everybody was either not available [or] said, ‘No, that’s too weird.'”

He remembers that Williams was a quiet person when they first met. He didn’t expect what came next. “[Robin] takes the script in his hand and he explodes like a volcano. I realize within five seconds of Robin Williams starting to rehearse I had two jobs that week: 1) get out of his way, 2) don’t laugh every three seconds—because he would absorb the script and spit it into the world as Robin.”


Henry Winkler’s Books

In addition to his film and TV projects, Winkler has co-authored children’s books with writer Lin Oliver. “Lin and I wrote Ghost Buddy. A little boy in the sixth grade finds a ghost in his house. And that ghost—I don’t know how this happened—sounds like the Fonz!”

They’re even introducing a new character this fall, with Detective Duck. “In October, our newest children’s book comes out, about a little duckling who lives on a pond in New Hampshire and dreams about being a detective.”

Outside of children’s books, fans can look forward to the release of Winkler’s autobiography, Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond, this October as well. Check out Celadon Books for all the details about the book and an exciting book tour.

Summing his career up, Henry Winkler believes that tenacity and gratitude are key aspects of his longevity and success. “Tenacity will get you where you want to go. No matter how many times you’re knocked down, you get right back up and you keep going. Gratitude allows you to make that journey without anger. I am grateful for everything.”

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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