Henry Winkler – Fine Line Between Pleasure and Royal Pains
ROYAL PAINS — The Royal Pains/Vanity Fair VIP In Store Event at Lacoste Fifth Avenue, New York City, Tuesday June 1st, 2010 — Pictured: Henry Winkler — Photo by: Jason DeCrow/USA Network
Fine Line Between Pleasure and Royal Pains
by Jay S. Jacobs
It’s always fun to talk with a television icon – particularly one who you grew up watching. I’d be a huge fan of Henry Winkler even if his wasn’t the first autograph that I ever got from a celebrity, because when I was growing up he was the epitome of cool as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on the smash hit sitcom Happy Days.
Of course, playing such a beloved character on television can be both a blessing and a curse because it is hard for anyone to look at the actor as any other character. Even though, as he pointed out to me in the interview, he was almost nothing like Fonzie in real life, for eight seasons he came into America’s living rooms as the most popular character in the most popular series on television for much of that time. And, Winkler has it harder than most. After all, the slang term for the moment when a television show goes bad, “jumping the shark,” refers to a specific scene that Winkler performed on Happy Days – late in the series his character had to ride a motorcycle over a tank with a live shark.
So, while he has never had another role that hit the pop culture zeitgeist like the Fonz, Winkler has kept on keeping on in Hollywood for the 28 years since that series went off the air. Winkler has played a long series of quirky roles and also pulled the strings behind projects like the TV series MacGyver as a Hollywood producer. He’s also found a huge group of outside interests to keep him occupied, from writing to philanthropy.
In recent years, Winkler has been popping up more and more often in films and television. His current character on the hit USA Network series Royal Pains is one of his best yet. He has spent the second season of the series playing Eddie R. Lawson, the well-meaning con-man father of Hamptons’ concierge medical team Hank and Evan Lawson (Mark Feuerstein and Paulo Costanzo). Eddie is trying to get back into the good graces of his estranged children, but at the same time his get-rich-quick schemes keep landing him in trouble and disappointing his sons.
Recently we were fortunate enough to be one of the websites to take part in a telephone conference call with Winkler to discuss his role in the second season finale of Royal Pains. At least that was the plan, though the avuncular actor was also more than happy to sidetrack and discuss his iconic role on Happy Days, the possible movie version of Arrested Development, his career in films including his work on such classic 80s comedies as Night Shift and The Sure Thing, fatherhood, his series of children’s books, his recent high honor from the Queen of England, his lifelong battle with dyslexia, his charity work for cerebral palsy, his love of fly-fishing in Montana, his favorite current TV series, his trouble with Twitter and where to find the best hamburger in New York City.
The famously friendly actor made a point of getting to know each of the questioners, finding out about where they were from, a bit about their lives, etc. We had to cut much of that from the article just because it was of more interest to the participants than their readers, however, some of it was so golden that we kept it in even if it was a little off topic, like for example when another questioner told him he was from Detroit and Winkler, unprompted, came back with his feelings on Detroit rapper Eminem. Really, how can you not use a quote from the Fonz about the Real Slim Shady?
POYAL PAINS — “Lovesick” — Episode 2004 — Photo by: Patrick Harbron/USA Network
How did you initially get involved with working on Royal Pains?
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 [Rauch]and Andrew [Lenchewski] 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.
Ha ha, sounds like a good idea though, you got the part.
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.
So you were a fan, then, huh?
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I kept bringing up details about the show, I probably embarrassed myself and overwhelmed the producers, but I kept saying, “Wow, that car! It gets its air conditioning from the sun. It’s a solar car. That’s amazing.”
What do you find the most challenging about bringing your character of Eddie to life on screen?
That is a good question. If I had to pick something, the challenge is to make sure that I am toe-to-toe with [series regulars] Mark [Feuerstein] and Paulo [Costanzo], Jill [Flint] and Reshma [Shetty] because they are really good. They are the real deal and I want to carry my weight.
Obviously Eddie is not a character that you’re actually like in real life, but are there ways that you’re similar to Eddie and in what ways are you different?
All right, let’s see. If I’m similar to Eddie, I love my children, I am misunderstood, I am annoying. I have not borrowed $50,000 from my children and then not repaid them. I have not turned my children into the FBI. Aside from that, it’s, I’m so close.
On a side note, it was just announced a few weeks ago that you were awarded the Order of the British Empire so….
Amazing, isn’t that amazing?
… could you talk about it and how it made you feel?
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 [from] the Queen.
Well, there’s such great chemistry between you and Hank and of course…
Royal Pains — “In Vino Veritas” Episode 2006 — USA Network Photo: David Giesbrecht
Yes, Paulo and, really when you’re interacting with them it’s like, a true father figure.
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 going to 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. You know everybody says that when I meet them on the plane or in an airport of some place in America, people talk to me about Royal Pains and they always talk about how much they enjoy everybody talking to each other. It makes me happy.
Well, as a fan of the show and also a star of the show, why do you think people keep tuning in to watch it?
Do you know what? I think because of what you said; I think that they, first of all, I imagine in the middle of the winter there’s this beautiful blue sky show that just takes you away to a place you want to be. Number two, I think because it is well written because after everything is said and done no matter how good the actors are, if it’s not on the page, there’s a famous expression, if it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. If it’s not written well then we actors, it’s hard to memorize; it’s hard to make real. It’s hard to get going, so I think that that combined all together made me a fan.
Tell me, do you know if the show has been renewed for next season?
Oh absolutely, I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the show is the highest rated on USA and the third-highest rated show in all of cable. I think USA when I saw them at the press junket in Los Angeles, a few weeks ago, were just thrilled. So yes, we’re renewed. I would not be surprised if we’re renewed for the fourth year.
That’s really, really fabulous. I have been a fan of the show since the very beginning.
Can I ask a question? Can you hear my answers to the other?
Yes I can.
So do you agree with me? Am I in the right area of why you think the show is a hit?
POYAL PAINS — “Lovesick” — Episode 2004 — Photo by: Patrick Harbron/USA Network
Oh, absolutely. I think the writing is absolutely stellar and the relationships between all of you come across as so genuine. And, Mark is just so adorable.
Oh, my God, he is so adorable. He has got more energy. There must be 15 people lying on a dog bed because he’s got all their energy. Curled up somewhere, I’m not kidding. He is an incredible leader on that set, always filled positively. And that’s not joke, I mean that just is the truth.
So tell me how do you envision a different Eddie R. next season or will Eddie not be different?
Do you know what? I don’t know that; I thought about that and I don’t try to second-guess the writers because they are so precise. They are there all the time; the writer of the episode, now the writer’s room is in California, the set is on Long Island. And the writer who writes the episode is flown out so that they can be there on the set so that if you turn to them and you say, “Oh, my gosh, I need to say something about this,” or, “I can’t say that, but how about this,” they will rewrite on-the-spot. Andrew and Michael are very clear and I think that’s another reason that the show is so successful because you have to have a point of view if you’re going to stick and those boys do.
What would you like to change about your character if you could?
I’d like to be in more episodes, thank you…. I’ll be here all week, try the veal. No, I, that’s if I had to change, I would like to be in all episodes.
Ah, well, we would love that, too.
Thank you, I’m just, I’m starting a write-in campaign.
Ha, ha, ha, ha, I will be the first one.
I just started and I’m going to start a Twitter campaign.
What is your Twitter ID so I can friend you, follow you?
Hwinkler4real. I try to write funny things. My friends Rob Corddry or Rob Huebel, they write funny, funny things every day. This morning I wrote, “It’s hard for some of us to say no when we should.” I didn’t get a lot of laughs.
With Royal Pains having a health and medical theme I’m wondering how is life when filming. Is the food healthy and exercise encouraged?
Well, you know what? Exercise is encouraged; I try to exercise. I have literally walked on the treadmill once in the 90s and I’m going to do that again in 2011.
ROYAL PAINS — The Royal Pains/Vanity Fair VIP In Store Event at Lacoste Fifth Avenue, New York City, Tuesday June 1st, 2010 — Pictured: (l-r) Photo by: Jason DeCrow/USA Network
So how’s the food?
The food, on the set?
Well I will tell you the food on the set is not bad. Now there are some caterers out there that are incredible, but because we shoot in New York and I stay in New York for long stretches of time, not only do I get to see my granddaughter, but I have found the best hamburger in New York City, a great cheeseburger, which is in Le Parker-Meridien Hotel and it’s called The Burger Joint. So if you like cheeseburgers…. It used to be PJ Clarke’s [by Lincoln Center], but this one has now overtaken it.
Good to know.
The little sides, I thought maybe we would be interested.
I’m sure a lot of people are going to be interested in that little fact. And I’ve got to know, what is your secret to aging well?
Wow I don’t know. I would have to say genes; it’s one of the better things I got from my parents.
So you just got lucky.
Yeah. They didn’t give me encouragement; they gave me good genes.
Good … though right?
You know what? I’m thrilled to death. At least I don’t yet need a walker.
You were talking about aspects of the character and how you play him and I was just wondering. 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?
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. 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. 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 Paulo Costanzo’s eyes because Paulo 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 looks like a wounded puppy.
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.
As we come to the close of this season, Eddie is caught between something of a rock and a hard place …
Yes. Pretty much in a hard place.
He has to either actually be less healthy or find a doctor to lie about him being less healthy in order to stay with his boys. Or he has to admit he’s healthy and go to jail. Personally, which direction would you prefer him to go? Do you think he should do the time?
I can’t tell you because if I do tell you, I will give away Thursday night. And my producers will sue me. I mean literally take me to court.
ROYAL PAINS — The Royal Pains/Vanity Fair VIP In Store Event at Lacoste Fifth Avenue, New York City, Tuesday June 1st, 2010 — Pictured: (l-r) Steve Birkhold, CEO Lacoste, Bonnie Hammer, President, Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, NBC Universal, Mark Feuersten, Henry Winkler, Dr. Matthew Spitzer, President of Doctors Without Borders, Edward Menicheschi — Photo by: Jason DeCrow/USA Network
You’re the first autograph I ever got.
I wrote away to Happy Days when I was a little kid and got an autographed picture a few weeks later so …
It was always very special. Also I’ve got to tell you, you’re the executive producer of my favorite movie ever, The Sure Thing, too.
That was the first movie my company ever did and Roger Birnbaum, the head of my company; he just took over MGM. He was the head of Spyglass with his partner, Gary[Barber], and they just took over. I mean it’s so amazing how the circle of this business keeps going around.
Isn’t it though? Now obviously, for years you were known as Fonzie and that’s such an iconic role …
Pretty much yesterday.
Yes exactly. But I thought it’s interesting how lately you’ve been playing some very offbeat characters like Eddie and your character in Arrested Development. Is it fun to play very flawed characters after being best known for a character who is sort of known for being so cool and perfect?
What is interesting is that I went to college and studied drama. I went to drama school and got a master’s degree. So I really wanted to be prepared; I really love my job. I am filled with gratitude that I get to do my job. The Fonz was as far from me as you could possibly be. I’m playing this tough Italian; I’m a short Jew. He rode a motorcycle and I had trouble with a two-wheeler. So that’s my job, is to create these people and make them come so to life that I’m having fun and you’re having fun watching. So I thoroughly enjoy Eddie and I’ll repeat it again because there is this room of writers in Los Angeles and they are young and then there are veteran writers in that room who could, and each one of these people could run their own show. So when I say it’s well written, it, these people are great at what they do.
Now Christine Ebersole has also always been a very underrated actress. What’s she like to work with?
I’ll tell you what she’s like; she is a life force unto herself and I was in my car, I listen to Sirius radio and I listen to satellite and I listen to Broadway, musicals. She just yesterday came into my car singing from Grey Gardens, which I believe she won a Tony for and it was like the sun shot into my car. You know, she is just fantastic. Did you see her on the Kennedy Center awards singing?
No I missed that.
Yeah, she’s just brilliant.
ROYAL PAINS — The Royal Pains/Vanity Fair VIP In Store Event at Lacoste Fifth Avenue, New York City, Tuesday June 1st, 2010 — Photo by: Jason DeCrow/USA Network
Now I know you can’t give away anything, but I just wanted to make sure that with the problems that Eddie is going through, you are going to be back for season three, right?
You know what, that’s my write-in campaign. That’s what I’m, I’m lobbying for.
I was wondering if you have any new children’s projects in the works.
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. We’re writing a whole new series of for kids, very funny and the underpinning of it will be about bullying.
I want to really thank you because you really helped me help a friend through learning about dyslexia, she struggled with it for quite a while. And felt very ashamed of it and so wasn’t aware about it and so I’ve learned about your issues and used that to help her. I was wondering if you have any resources coming out?
I don’t have any resources because in each area there are places, a lot of universities have entire departments dedicated to kids who learn differently and they can lead you. What I know is this, one out of five children have some sort of learning challenge. It’s hereditary so you’re born with it. It’s not your choice. You learn to negotiate it and what I have said and I will say over and over and over again, no matter how a child learns, their brilliance has nothing to do with that. Because it is difficult for them, it does not mean that they are not brilliant.
Can you talk about your progression as an actor from your first experience on a set and compare it to your Royal Pains experience? How much has changed and what elements are still the same?
Do you know what is interesting? I’ll tell you what has changed. The size of the camera, the size of the lights, aside from that, acting is acting is acting. The same process that I did in 1974 on Happy Days is the process that we do on Royal Pains in 2011. That is absolutely the truth. Nothing changes because the doing of it, the art of it, the tradition of it is exactly the same. What has changed is on the set of Happy Days, which was Stage 19 on Paramount lot, the same stage that Lucy used when she did I Love Lucy. We had a camera that was so gigantic it took three people to move the dolly and now the camera is tiny compared and most of it is tape, which looks like film. When I did the movie Click, with Adam Sandler, it was the first time that they used the Genesis, which was the tape camera designed to make movies. Now, today, they can shoot movies on your home, you know, camera that you take photographs as a family with, through Canon, I think. Isn’t that amazing?
Yes. Now how would you describe Eddie’s relationship with Hank and Evan?
How would I describe it? Eddie wants Hank’s approval. Eddie has Paulo’s … Evan’s … approval and doesn’t yet completely appreciate it.
Royal Pains — “In Vino Veritas” Episode 2006 — USA Network Photo: David Giesbrecht
My question goes back to your writing, and I work at a library and 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?
Oh, that’s a good question. I got involved; someone 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?” 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 he introduced me to Lynne Oliver and since 2003 we’ve been writing together. 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.
Thanks. I’ve been a fan of yours since Happy Days.
You show good taste.
Yes and you’re already answered a bit about how being on a TV series has changed, but of all the roles that you’ve taken on in movies and film, etc., what’s your favorite?
Wow, all right and this is the absolute truth, I don’t have a favorite. Every time I think of a project, I always think, “Wow, this is great, no, no, no, this one is great.” It’s like my children; I don’t have a favorite. I’ll tell you what, I live with gratitude. I wanted to do this since I was seven; I’m actually still doing it and I earn a living doing this. I am so grateful I don’t even know how to explain it to you. That is the truth. 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.
That’s wonderful. So is that the advice you would give to someone wanting to go into acting?
Well I would also give them the advice of preparation. Do you know there are so many young people they think – I don’t know what has gotten into the culture, but they think, oh, I can do that; I’m just going to do that. 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.
You wrote a forward to a book called The Sitcom Career Book [by Mary Lou Belli and Phil Ramuno].
It was honestly probably the most inspiring two pages I’ve read. It’s better than the actual book, so I just wanted to thank you for that.
This is probably too early to mention, but I love taking photographs. But I’m so dyslexic, I’ve never actually turned a knob in my life on a camera. I took pictures while I fly-fished for trout. And those are coming out in a book on May 1st. So that was inspiring to me that that would actually happen.
Royal Pains — “In Vino Veritas” Episode 2006 — USA Network Photo: David Giesbrecht
My question was taken by the last person, what’s your advice to actors?
You know what? My advice to actors is think of yourself as pasta and throw yourself against the wall until it sticks.
I like that; I’ve never actually heard that, that’s good. When you approach a scene, be it a comedy or drama, what is the main thing that you do first?
The first thing I do is I have to read it very slowly because reading is still difficult for me. But what I look for is what do I want and from there, I then build. Because when you know what you want you can get it and you have to figure out how to get it with somebody else’s words on that page.
Given how Eddie faces a life in prison, how challenging was it to play what he’s forced to confront internally, but also maintain a sense of humor?
His sense of humor keeps him buoyant and I think if he did not con, put on the face on the world, he would explode and just splatter.
Now that your career’s evolved into playing a father figure, in what ways can you now relate to Tom Bosley in his job as an actor back then on Happy Days?
Well, he was a great dad, wasn’t he? I mean, he was a smart guy. I saw him on Broadway before I ever got to California. I saw him in Fiorello!; I think he won the Tony. What I’ve always said is that he was our father figure for ten years in television, on television and he was our father figure in real life for 30.
And do you ever find yourself looking back and relating to what he went through as an actor?
I do, but I also look back and I relate to being a dad just from living through three grown children. You know, my youngest is 27, my daughter is 30 and my oldest is 39.
You talked about tenacity and gratitude. What kept you going throughout the years to not allow yourself to be stereotyped by the character?
Well, there’s a phrase that was first said in 1946 and my whole life, when I give a speech, in public speaking, my speech is based on it. It’s if you will it, it is not a dream. I now know that is the truth, the cosmic truth. It just works, at least in the western hemisphere, it is the truth
As a person you’re an actor, producer, director, author, you’re a philanthropist – I don’t think you need to work. What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Well, all of that gets me out of bed. I do need to work because when you have a daughter with a credit card, trust me, you need to work. I love my job. I love my job.
Regarding Eddie, he’s kind of a bad guy ….
Aw, aw, aw, aw, aw, he’s not bad. He is misunderstood. His heart is in the right place; his mind and his heart are just not connected.
So what gets him out of bed in the morning?
I think a good Reuben gets him out of bed, a really great sandwich.
I am a huge fan of your work on Arrested Development. It’s one of my favorite shows, I still think it’s a shame it was canceled. I know the movie’s still in pre-production and it has been ….
Well let me just say this. All of the actors have said yes. We are completely dependent on Mitch Hurwitz. He just did a series with ….
Now maybe that the nature of that series [Running Wilde, which was recently cancelled] has changed, maybe he will now turn his attention to the movie.
So you are planning on reprising the role of Barry Zuckerkorn?
I still have my chiffon underwear in the drawer waiting.
I’m glad to know that was yours.
It was. Now, talk about understanding a character. I don’t know who the hell he is. All I do is say the words.
You say them very well, I have to admit. You were always one of my favorite parts of the series.
Oh thank you.
I did get to see the preview for this upcoming week’s episode and I noticed Eddie seems a little George Bluth [the father in Arrested Development, played by Jeffrey Tambor] to me. I mean he has legal troubles, he kind of pits two sons against each other, maybe doesn’t always have the best attorneys and I just wondered if you’ve noticed that?
I never thought of that, but I want to tell you something; if I could be as good as that particular actor, I would be in heaven. What a great … being able to look at those two in that way. I think that’s real, I’m going to remember that.
What has been your favorite episode of Royal Pains so far?
I don’t really have a favorite because I love all the different scenes. I love the scene in the hospital cafeteria that we just did. I love the scene at the table when I yell at Hank in the outdoor restaurant. I love the scene in my house when he came and he wouldn’t have dinner and I gave him a kiss on the forehead, which Mark was not ready for because I never rehearsed it. And you see his reaction and it is to die for.
I have to say that the scenes with Eddie and his sons have been my personal favorite and the most heart wrenching at times ….
Would you please write that to the producers?
I will. What’s going to be coming up for you right now; what’s next?
I’m going to do a movie in Boston; I just can’t tell you which one yet, starting at the end of March. I am hoping to go back to Royal Pains, which I’m so excited about. And writing the new series for Scholastic.
I’m in Detroit ….
Ah, wonderful. Stand up as they say. Eminem, he is in a class by himself.
Yeah, yes he is; he absolutely is. It was great to hear your answer about Arrested Development. I’m such a fan of that show and your work on that show in particular. So I’m so glad that you would be happy to be involved in that when and if the movie moves forward. 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?
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. What is the, the comedy with the family?
Oh, my God, Modern Family. That’s a killer. What else do I watch? I love Royal Pains, we talked about that yeah, and I like Rachel Maddow.
That’s great. Well, I think you should guest on Modern Family.
You do, huh? Ty Burrell [one of the stars of Modern Family] was my son a few years ago in Out of Practice, with Stockard Channing. Yeah and you know what else I like? You know Burn Notice? I think that’s a really good show.
So one thing you haven’t talked about yet. I know you’ve produced a lot. Can you talk about working on MacGyver?
The greatest day of my producing life was when Richard Dean Anderson walked in the door. We had met every handsome, wonderful, star, leading man and then all of a sudden Richard Dean came in and he couldn’t read the script without his glasses. At that moment when he was searching in his bag for his glasses he got the part because he was flawed. He was not perfect; he was and then turned out to be an unbelievable leader on the set for seven years. I’ve got to tell you something else about it. The most difficult thing I’ve ever done as a producer, trying to find sources for MacGyverisms.
One thing that I think about you personally; you’re kind of a hero to our family, the work you do with, especially with cerebral palsy and Special Olympics.
I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about it? I mean, you could just lend your name to it, but you get involved.
You know what happened? When I was doing Happy Days, Leonard Goldenson was sill alive; the man who created ABC, who was the founder of ABC. His daughter had cerebral palsy and he came to me in my dressing room and he said, “Look, I want to do this telethon; we’ve done it for one year kind of on a trial basis. John Ritter does it because his brother has cerebral palsy; would you consider being our co-host?” And I said, “Okay, you know, the man who found the network that I’m on asked me a favor, I don’t think I’m going to say no.” So I went and then we did it for like ten years together, and, and I miss John every day, but that’s how I got involved with that telethon and with helping CP.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us; this has been like the best call I’ve ever done.
Is that true?
Yeah, it’s been fantastic; I enjoyed the whole entire, it’s just been amazing to learn so much about you.
Thanks. I’m five-six and a half ….
I will put that and I do agree with the Burger Joint being the best cheeseburger in New York, by the way.
It’s great, isn’t it?
I go there way too often.
Yeah, me, too.
So my question for you is do you have a dream project or dream role that you would like to either work on or play?
Wow, that is a good question. I would love to play a mute that I would have to communicate everything only through my body without words. So I’ve thought about that for a very long time. When I was younger, I wanted to be Zorro. But I’ve given that up. So my dream really is to continue working and to be finished with acting before acting is finished with me. That is my dream.
How did you get started into acting?
You mean as a professional? The Yale Repertory Theater. I made $120, $172 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. 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. That’s the fact about that.
I’ve enjoyed listening to all your questions and I think I’m older than most of the people that you’ve been talking to, but I’ve loved everything you done and my particular favorite, Night Shift, I love Chuck Lovely, Chuck Lovely has my heart.
You know Ron Howard said, “You can play either, just be in the movie.” And I thought, well, I just played the Fonz for a lot of years; I’m going to play Richie. That’s how I picked Chuck.
I’m from New England and I know you shoot on Long Island for this wonderful series, Royal Pains and if you could pick a spot, now the Hamptons are very richy rich, but there are lots of lovely little townships and what not on Long Island. If you could pick a spot, where would you be and what you film there at your location, where do you fall in love, any little small towns, areas that you could talk about?
I will tell you that Boston is a great city. Because it is large enough to learn your independence and small enough to make your own. Connecticut as a whole is a gorgeous state. I love the lobster in Maine; New Hampshire is fun to drive through to get to the lobster. But I’ve often thought, I’ve asked my wife this, where would we live if we didn’t live here? Because I never really attached to LA. My children were born here, my dogs are Los Angelinos, I work here, but my heart is in New York. And my soul is in Montana where I fly-fish for trout.
Interesting, you don’t get anxietal like a lot of New Yorkers do in the Big Sky country?
No I don’t. As a matter of fact, I am in heaven. My, the new book on May first is about what I have learned on the river that I apply to my life.
What’s the biggest fish you ever caught?
Last summer, I caught a trout that was 25 inches long and 6 pounds. And I’m still secretly screaming inside that I caught him and then of course I released him.
Oh, when you go to the aquarium, do you, in your mind you’re showing your kids the fish when they were little, did you ever think, “Well, that’s a good eating fish, that’s not a good eating fish?”
No, I never thought about that in my life. And now I think to myself fish is healthy except that what we put in the ocean, I’m not sure what the fish are eating. Like there’s that whole island in Indonesia, maybe, the size of Texas that is only made of plastic.
Right, it’s caught in the Pacific current.
Oh, my God, what we have done to ourselves? That’s what I think.Photo Credits:#1 © 2010 Jason DeCrow. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#2 © 2010 Patrick Harbron. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#3 © 2010 David Giesbrecht. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#4 © 2010 Patrick Harbron. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#5 © 2010 Jason DeCrow. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#6 © 2010 Jason DeCrow. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#7 © 2010 Jason DeCrow. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#8 © 2010 David Giesbrecht. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.#9 © 2010 David Giesbrecht. Courtesy of USA Network. All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 24, 2011.
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