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Henry Winkler Reveals "Debilitating" Pain After "Happy Days" in New Interview

The actor struggled in his career after the hit sitcom ended.

The Fonz is one of the most iconic characters in television history, and Henry Winkler played the role for 10 years. So, it's no surprise that when Happy Days ended, it was a huge transition for the actor, and apparently not an easy one. Not only was a major part of his life and career coming to an end, but Winkler says that he was also aggressively typecast after playing the '50s greaser, which led to a long period in which he worked very little.

In a new interview, the 77-year-old Barry star explained just how hard of a time he had personally after Happy Days ended, saying that the pain he experienced was "debilitating." Read on to see what else Winkler had to say and why he doesn't regret playing Fonzie, even though it led to a dark time in his life.

READ THIS NEXT: Charlie Sheen Reportedly Threatened to Quit His Own Show If Selma Blair Wasn't Fired.

He had "psychic pain" after Happy Days.

Henry Winkler circa 1975
Archive Photos/Getty Images

In an interview with Today published on May 8, Winkler said that he experienced "debilitating" pain when Happy Days was over.

"There were eight or nine years at a time when I couldn't get hired because I was 'The Fonz,' because I was typecast," he said. "I had psychic pain that was debilitating because I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to find it, whatever it was, I didn't know what I was going to do. I had a family. I had a dog. I had a roof. Oh. My. God."

As he mentioned, Winkler's wife, Stacey Weitzman, was by his side along the way. The two got married in 1978, four years after Happy Days premiered. They welcomed a daughter, Zoe, in 1980, and a son, Max, in 1983.

He didn't know what was next for his career.

Henry Winkler at the Night of 100 Stars Benefit Gala in 1982
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Moving on was especially difficult, because Happy Days was such a positive experience, the actor has explained. In 2021, Winkler told Insider that the sitcom, which ran from 1974 to 1984, was exactly what he "dreamed of doing." So when it had run its course, he didn't know what "the next step" would be.

"I sat in my office and I thought, 'Oh my god, I am having pain in my brain because I don't have a plan B,'" he said.

As for being typecast, he explained, "People would say, 'Wow, he's funny. He's such a good actor. But he was The Fonz.' And so they would pass me by. You have to learn to find the strength in yourself to deal with that, reinvent yourself, move on."

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He made new career moves.

Henry Winkler at the HBO Emmy party in 2018
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

After Happy Days ended, Winkler avoided typecasting by turning to work behind the scenes. The Today interview notes that he started a production company in 1985—the year after Happy Days ended—which produced the popular series MacGyver. He also worked as a director, including on two feature films: 1988's Memories of Me and 1993's Cop and a Half.

He returned to acting regularly in the early '90s, and has since become known for roles on Arrested Development, Parks and Recreation, Children's Hospital, and Barry, for which he won an Emmy Award. He's also been in popular movies including ScreamClick, and The French Dispatch.

He doesn't regret his time on the show.

Stacey Weitzman and Henry Winkler at the 2020 Critics' Choice Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Despite what came after, Winkler told Today that he has no regrets about Happy Days.

"I loved doing it. I loved playing 'The Fonz.' I love those people. I loved learning how to play softball. I loved traveling all over the world together with the cast. I would not have traded it," he said. "Not only that, but also, I don't know that I would've gotten here if I hadn't gone through the struggle."

The actor revealed what he would tell his younger self if he had the chance. "Life is more fun than you think it is, than you allow it to be. Don't worry so much," Winkler said. "I worried way too much, to the point where it literally made me inert."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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