Henry Winkler, Actor
I was able to talk to Henry Winkler from Royal Pains and I must say, this is one of the best conversations that I have ever had the privilege to be part of. Henry is one of the most genuinely kind hearted actor in Hollywood. Many of you know him as Fonzie from Happy days, but like Henry says: he is nothing like Fonzie. “Fonzie was a cool Italian and I am a short Jew.” I laughed pretty hard at that one.
Chris Gorham had this to say of his father from Out Of Practice:Henry Winkler is one of the kindest and most thoughtful men I know. Not bad to look at either. 🙂
Yvette Brown said: Henry Winkler is the sweetest soul alive. #PureLove no matter who you are!
So you see, I was just able to get a glimpse of the man that actors get the pleasure of working with. He is so compassionate about all that he does and I really hope you like the interview as much as I did. I have more than the standard 5 questions because there was so much I wanted to share with you.
TheTwoCents: How did you initially get involved with working on Royal Pains?
Henry Winkler: Oh, if I’m not mistaken this is exactly how it happened. The producer, Andrew, was sitting at dinner and next to him was my dentist and his wife. They overheard them talking that they’re looking for the father for Royal Pains. My dentist’s wife was a fan; she said, “Oh, you know who it should be? Henry Winkler.” A little while later I had breakfast with Michael and Andrew who run the show, brilliantly I might add and they asked me if I would join the cast and I embarrassed myself in the restaurant. You know what, my wife and I watched every episode; we were appointment television viewers of the show before I ever got the call to see if I was interested.
TTC: It was just announced a few weeks ago that you were awarded the Order of the British Empire so we are wondering about how it made you feel?
HW: Amazing, isn’t that amazing? All right; I got a letter that said, “You must keep this a secret. If the Queen decides to give you an award, would you accept it?” I said, “Can I say yes I would.” I would be okay with that. And then six weeks later I get a letter saying, “The Queen of England has graciously agreed to confer on Henry Winkler the order of the British Empire,” for the work that I do in England also with children who learn differently. My books, Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever that I co-write with Lynne Oliver, are also popular in the UK and I go over there to tour for the books and I’ve spoken to, oh, I want to say a hundred thousand students over there also. And so, my work with children who learn differently is what got me to this wonderful honor. The Queen!
TTC: Well, there’s such great chemistry between you and, and Hank and of course, Paolo and, really when you’re interacting with them it’s like, –. A true father figure.
HW: Yeah, honestly, what you see is what you get. You cannot lie; the camera does not lie. And we had so far the most wonderful time together and we don’t talk about it a lot; you do it once for the crew, , you go through a scene then for the camera placement; you go through the scene for where you’re going to be in the room, how you’re gonna move together. You go and you put your makeup on, you go put your costume on. You come back and then you shoot it two or three times and out of that come these unbelievably wonderful scenes. I honestly believe that some of the best work I’ve done on television are the scenes that I have done with Mark, you know, they are so emotional and layered but also it’s great writing.
TTC: In order to bring a character to life … there’s got to be some kind of point where you relate to him. So I was wondering, what do you like most about Eddie and what do you like least?
HW: I’ll tell you exactly what I like least first. It is so difficult to look my son in the eye, to look Mark in the eye when he says, “You left when mom was sick and we were nine and eleven.” And I take no responsibility for that. That is the most difficult – those are the most difficult moments to play because it is, first of all, so against my grain and second of all, I particularly don’t like the character at the moment. I’ll tell you something else I’m not particularly fond of Eddie about. That he dismisses Evan in order to get to Hank. That’s very hurtful when I do that, when I look in Paolo Costanzo’s eyes because Paolo is right there with you, at the moment. He’s right in the moment with you when you are, and he takes it so personally. He does and it just strikes right into my heart when I look in his eye; I’m not kidding. No one has ever asked me that question, that’s my answer.
And what I like about doing him is his zest for life. And he truly now has come to the point, I believe, unless I’m proven wrong, and I will find out in subsequent scripts, but he’s come to the point where he really appreciates his sons.
TTC: . I guess my question goes back to your writing, I was wondering if you could tell us how you got involved in writing books and what advice would you give a young person who wants to be a writer?
HW: Oh, that’s a good question. I got involved, somebody said to me, there was a lull in my acting career; who knew there would be a lull in your acting career. And he said to me, “Why don’t you write books for kids about your learning challenges?” And I didn’t immediately picked up on it because I literally thought I have nothing to say, I can’t write a book; I’m stupid. I was told I was stupid; I was lazy. Two years later he said the same thing and this time I said, “Okay,” and I met Lynne. He introduced me to Lynne Oliver and since 2003 we’ve been writing together. And how we write is I go to her office every day; it usually takes about two-and-a-half months to write a novel. They’re 133 pages long. And I walk around her office and she sits at the computer and we literally argue over every word. We literally write it together and what I would say to young people is this. There is more than one way to get to where you want to go; there’s always somebody who can help you do what you don’t know how to do. And just sit in front of your computer if you can use one and write five minutes a day; just write whatever comes to your mind. And pretty soon, you’d be shocked at what you have.
We finished the Hank Zipzer series; we did 17 novels, and honestly, yesterday at 2:48 in the afternoon, Lynne Oliver and I finished the first novel of our brand-new series for Scholastic, which will be out in 2012. So we’re writing a whole new series of for kids, very funny and the underpinning of it will be about bullying.
TTC: So is that the advice you would give to someone wanting to go into acting?
HW: Well I would also give them the advice of preparation. Do you know there’s so many young people they think that it, I don’t know what has gotten into the culture, but they think that, oh, I can do that; I’m just going to do that. And I think if you’re going to do something you want to be there for longer than a minute. You have to think of yourself as a forest ranger. You plant a tree and you want to tend that tree for the next 75 years.
If I were to give you two words, I would give you tenacity, which helps you get where you want to go and gratitude, which allows you not to be angry when you get there. You know what? My advice to actors is think of yourself as pasta and throw yourself against the wall until it sticks.
TTC: I was wondering, you said you were a fan of Royal Pains before you were on the show. I was wondering what other shows you’re a fan of?
HW: You know what I love? I love The Good Wife. I think that is just a great show. The new, Chicago Code, I’m enjoying. Oh, my god, Modern Family. … Burrell was my son, a few years ago in Out of Practice, with Stockard Channing. I like Rachel Maddow. Yeah and you know what else I like? You know Burn Notice?
TTC: Just a quick one, I just wanted to know how you got started into acting?
HW: I made 120, 172 dollars a week as an actor at the Yale Repertory theater after graduating from the Drama School. And from there it just grew, but that was my very first professional job, June 30, 1970 in East Hampton, Long Island, at the John Drew Theater, the Yale Repertory Theater did a Summer of Story theater. And that was my very first job and I had a Pontiac Lemans with a bad oil tray or something like that. I wanted to beat it into submission, this car, brand-new, got it, didn’t drive, hated it.
Thanks Henry, for the best interview….ever!
You can watch Henry on Royal Pains, Thurs. at 9:00 pm USA Network
You can follow Henry on Twitter – @hwinkler4real
Karen – Sr Staff Writer