Mark Robertson

Mark Robertson

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Ron Howard: Happy Days execs disrespected him once Fonzie arrived

EW x NRDC Sundance Film Festival Panel Series: Rebuilding Paradise Panel and Reception

Photo: Getty Images

This is an interesting glimpse into network television.

Back in the 70s when "Happy Days" was a big hit, Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham was meant to be the lead actor.

Then came the tsunami: the arrival of Henry Winkler as Fonzie. The response to the character was amazing. Howard says Fonzie became more popular than Richie but then again Winkler was "remarkable."

"We immediately bonded and became great friends," he told Norton. "We were a fantastic ensemble - we all got along great."

Ron accused "the studio heads" and "network heads" of "really treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint, just in terms of interaction."

"The press kept saying: 'What's it like? Do you feel that you've become a second-class citizen on your own show?' and these kinds of things," Howard said. "Which I didn't feel within the workspace. And I certainly didn't feel it within our friendship, which endures to this day."

Howard said not only did the two men enjoy a close bond while working on "Happy Days" but Winkler remained godfather to all four of Howard's children, including the actor Bryce Dallas Howard.

The way he was treated was a major impetus in him moving on to find his dream of working behind the camera and telling the stories he wanted to tell.

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