In accepting his first-ever primetime Emmy Award for acting this past September, Henry Winkler succinctly summed up a successful, four-decade-plus career in television.
“If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you and tonight, I got to clear the table,” Winkler said of his Emmy award win in the best supporting actor in a comedy series category for his role in HBO’s Barry.
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Winkler’s career is a testament to his longevity at the entertainment table and to his ability to perform at a high level across a diverse portfolio of roles — in front of and behind the camera — from his iconic run as the cool, unflappable Arthur Fonzarelli in the 1970s ABC sitcom Happy Days to Gene Cousineau, Barry’s uncool acting teacher.
“He’s been able to stay a working actor, producer and everything else in the business since the 1970s,” Marc Berman, TV critic and editor of TV industry website Programming Insider, said. “He was the Fonz — and that was a hard thing to break away from — and yet he’s really managed to thrive for decades after it.”
Indeed, after Winkler’s successful 10-year Happy Days run as the leather-jacketed Fonz, he stepped behind the camera to produce a number of television shows, including 1980s hit MacGyver, before hitting the big screen in several theatrical movies, including Night Shift, The Waterboy and a small-but-memorable role in the horror film Scream.
Winkler would return to television in 1994 for the short-lived Fox series Monty, as well as in guest and recurring roles in such shows as Arrested Development — its initial 2003 Fox run and its 2013 Netflix reboot — as well as on USA Network’s medical-themed drama series Royal Pains and NBC’s Parks and Recreation.
Winkler even tried his hand at reality TV in 2016, teaming with actor William Shatner, heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, comedian Jeff Dye and former Super Bowl champion quarterback Terry Bradshaw for the NBC travel series Better Late Than Never, for which Winkler served as executive producer.
But it would be his collaboration with Alec Berg and Bill Hader on HBO’s Barry that would return Winkler to TV’s upper echelon. Winkler’s brilliant portrayal of blunt and obsessive acting coach Cousineau in the dark comedy has already netted the 73-year-old actor a Primetime Emmy Award and a Critics’ Choice Award in just the show’s first season.
“Henry is just this beautiful kind of light in the room,” Hader said during last year’s Television Critics Association winter press tour.
Added Berman: “Anybody will tell you that [Winkler] is one of the nicest guys in the business. He’s always been busy and has diversified his work over the years, and now he’s found this show Barry that he’s won an Emmy for. He’s really red-hot right now.”