For 10 years during the mid-1970s and 1980s, Henry Winkler was the epitome of “cool” in the eyes of the millions of Americans who tuned in weekly to watch Happy Days. His character “The Fonz” — otherwise known as “Fonzie,” or by his given name, Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli — is among the most enduring in television history. The ladies were in love with him, and the guys pining over them wanted to be just like him — especially Richie Cunningham, played by Winkler’s future Arrested Development castmate, Ron Howard.
These days, Winkler embodies coolness very differently. Since 2003, the 72-year-old actor has co-authored the Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever children’s book series, a collection of pseudo-autobiographical stories about a smart kid with dyslexia loosely based on Winkler’s lifelong struggle with the reading disorder. With Lin Oliver, Winkler has written dozens of books which also serve as the basis for a British children’s television series. Commissioned by the CBBC in 2014, both the Hank Zipzer show and its recent Christmas special have garnered several BAFTA nominations and wins.
Speaking with Uproxx from New York, Winkler beams with pride about the work he and Oliver have accomplished and praises the Hank Zipzer showrunners. Even so, the man who introduced Fonzie to the world stops himself mid-sentence. He just can’t get over what an experience it’s all been, he tells me, especially with his work on Arrested Development‘s long-awaited fifth season. “Mitchell Hurwitz is a genius,” he exclaims. “I mean, it just flat-out is the truth. If you see a category in a book for geniuses in America, he’s going to be there.”