Henry Winkler Interview: ‘Barry’
“When I read the script, it was like reading cashmere, instead of a cotton blend, which so many scripts are,” reveals Henry Winkler in our exclusive webcam interview (watch the video above). In HBO’s ‘Barry,” the veteran actor plays Gene Cousineau, a down on his luck acting coach of a group of wannabe actors including part-time hitman Barry, played by leading man and co-creator Bill Hader.
Winkler says he had plenty of inspiration for Gene when working out how to play him, admitting that he has “had very good, and very bad teachers.” He adds, “They say that if you can’t do, teach. And for Gene, if you lose a commercial to a gecko, you should teach. Somewhere deep down, he loves his students. What I heard, and didn’t know at first, but what I heard from Bill [Hader] and Alec [Berg] the creators, is that they wrote him meaner. And as I started to play him, they started to write him with more of me involved, so there’s a kind of pathos that they didn’t envision.”
Winkler is enjoying a career renaissance this year after decades on screen, all the way back to the 1970s when he was quite possibly the most famous face on television as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on the classic ABC sitcom “Happy Days.” Winkler received three consecutive Best Comedy Actor Emmy nominations for his breakthrough role (1976 to 1978), and was also nominated in 1979 for Informational Program and again in 2000 for a guest turn on the ABC drama “The Practice.” The veteran actor is still yet to win however, and Winkler recounts what he says is the real truth about what nominees really think when nominated for awards like the Emmys.
“Here’s the truth. It is an honor to be nominated,” Winkler says. “And that honor lasts all the way until your tush hits the seat, and then all you want to do is win!” he laughs. “You know that whole business of ‘hey, just to be nominated is great,’ well it is! Until your tush is in the seat. And when it touches that velvet, all bets are off! And that’s the truth!”
Thinking forward to whether he might return to the Emmys 18 years after his last nomination, Winkler is more focused on the positive feedback he has been receiving for his current role on the HBO comedy. “I can’t even think about winning or being nominated. To be talked about in this way, feels great,” he admits. “You know, I’ve done a lot of things. People of course talk to me about ‘Happy Days,’ they talk to me about ‘Scream,’ about ‘Water Boy,’ about ‘Parks and Rec,’ about ‘Royal Pains,’ and now ‘Barry.’ But when they talk about ‘Barry’ or what’s been written about the show as a whole, well that’s a whole new kettle of fish. It really feels great!”