John P. Johnson/HBO
Henry Winkler Supporting Actor (Comedy)
Fifth time’s the charm? We certainly hope so for Henry Winkler, who scored acting Emmy nod No. 5 for his role as grandiose acting coach Gene Cousineau on HBO’s Barry. Whether he’s berating student (and hit man) Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) or getting his flirt on with gruff detective Janice Moss (Paula Newsome), Winkler (above, with Sarah Goldberg) is one of the best returning favorites of the season. He talks about his current Emmy prospects, as well as his first nomination in 1976 for the breakout role of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on Happy Days.
Television has been very good to me. My first job was on The Mary Tyler Moore Show [in 1973]; my second was Happy Days [1974–84]. By Season 2, I was getting 50,000 fan letters a week. I would read the mail — one letter was to the producers saying, “Fonzie should get more screen time.” It was from my mother! She didn’t sign it, but I would have known that handwriting anywhere.
The first time I was nominated, I was really nervous. Jack Albertson won for Chico and the Man, but at age 27, I had an image of who I wanted to be as an actor. I’ve now flipped the numbers, and at age 72, I’m getting closer to who I imagined. But that whole thing of “it really is an honor to be in a category with all those other actors”? That lasts until your tush hits the seat, at which point you really just want to win!
When something is written well, like Barry, the whole script goes into your body, goes into your mind. Every page, you turn and go, “Oh my God, this is amazing!” I was reading filet mignon, not a steak and baked potato for $1.29. [During casting] the producers said, “You’re on a short list.” And I said, “OK, I have one question: Is Dustin Hoffman on that list? Because if he is, I’m not going in.” And they said no, so I auditioned.
I’m so proud and so happy that I was nominated, but you don’t get that by yourself. You get it because you’re with Bill Hader and this incredibly talented bunch of actors I get to work with every day. They make me better. So here I am again. But here I am is more important than the again. —Henry Winkler, as told to West Coast Bureau Chief Jim Halterman