Someone forgot to tell Henry Winkler about typecasting. You'd think after playing one of the most iconic characters of a generation, the Fonz on Happy Days, Winkler would have had some trouble getting new roles. But the parts just keep on coming. In addition to his recurring role as the estranged father on USA's Royal Pains, Winkler has now joined the cast of Adult Swim's Childrens Hospital as the ridiculously nice hospital administrator. The series, which mercilessly skewers the medical show genre, was created by The Daily Show alum Rob Corddry during the writers' strike of 2007-08, and streamed online at thewb.com in five-minute segments. Now graduated to Cartoon Network's late-night block (where the initial shorts have been airing since July), Hospital begins a run of 12 original, 15-minute episodes on Sunday at 10:30/9:30c. "At the very least it is one of the greatest honors of my life [to work with] Henry Winkler," says Corddry, "and he does not disappoint." No, he certainly doesn't. And here, in a freewheeling interview with TV Guide Magazine, Winkler once again does not disappoint.
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TV Guide Magazine: Is it safe to say that we are in the middle of a Henry Winkler renaissance that started with Arrested Development and continues strong through Childrens Hospital and Royal Pains?
Henry Winkler: I'm living the adage, "When it rains, it pours." Except it's raining and pouring honey in my life.
TV Guide Magazine: Well, that sounds messy if nothing else.
Winkler: Yes, it's true, it's a little viscous but a happy, a happy liquid.
TV Guide Magazine: How did the role as the administrator on Childrens Hospital come about?
Winkler: I got the invitation to be part of the ensemble for Childrens Hospital and I had no idea what world I had entered. I'm not kidding.
TV Guide Magazine: But you took a look at it before you accepted it, right?
Winkler: I did not. I merely heard the group of people, the ensemble that I was going to play with, headed by Megan Mullally who, you know, my wife and I [enjoyed] in Will & Grace. And Ken Marino and Malin Akerman and it just goes on and on and on. And I'm forbidden from saying the word "wacky" [to talk about the show]. I have to use the word "meta" — it's "meta-comedy." But whatever it is, it is the funniest thing and all I did was say yes, put my head down and did what they told me to do.
TV Guide Magazine: Your character is this really nice guy and that is your reputation in the industry.
Winkler: You know what? I don't see myself as a nice guy. I see myself as an appreciative fellow. And I think if you have those two precepts—tenacity and gratitude—you can fight through anything.
TV Guide Magazine: And if you don't, you'll be a failure. Is that what you're saying, Henry?
Winkler: Well, I think that you don't enjoy life as much.
TV Guide Magazine: Well, that's a good point. So have you watched any of the new episodes that you've shot for Childrens Hospital?
Winkler: I have not seen one minute. I only have the memory of what we shot in that hospital in the [San Fernando] Valley.
TV Guide Magazine: Is that the same one that Scrubs was filmed at?
Winkler: Yes. They shot there for what, nine or 10 years? So I think that bodes well, don't you?
TV Guide Magazine: You have a romance of sorts with Megan Mullally's character on the show. After 40 years of on-screen kissing, is it something that's fun or is it still
Winkler: You know what, it's nerve-wracking.
TV Guide Magazine: Why is that?
Winkler: Because you never know if you've got bad breathe or not.
TV Guide Magazine: How about breath strips?
Winkler: I went through most of them that were on the set. But it's nerve-wracking because you have to be respectful of your leading lady, you have to keep your hygiene up.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you brush and floss beforehand?
Winkler: In front of them. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Just as proof, you bring out the portable sink, the whole deal?
Winkler: I swear to you, it's proof. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: In 2008, you and Ron Howard revisited your characters, Fonzie and Richie, in a video for Barack Obama.
Winkler: It was so emotional I don't even know how to describe it to you. Ron, he's like my brother. Ron and I were getting dressed, getting prepared in the trailer on the set of Angels & Demons [which Howard was directing at the time] and so we're walking to the set together, we're dressed as the characters and we're talking like Ron and Henry. I lean against the car, he walks up and I say, "Hey Richie, you do your homework?" We were back 33 years in a second. It was emotionally overwhelming that we were there together. He was an acting partner from God. There was this unspoken thing, I'm telling you, it just was overwhelming.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you still miss everyone from the cast?
Winkler: I talk to them all the time. I call Marion [Ross] all the time, I spoke to Tom [Bosley] a week ago. It was quite a family. And everything comes from the person at the top. Garry Marshall, Tom Miller and Edward Milkis were adults and there was no bad behavior. You just were professional, and you played softball on the weekends together and you traveled to Germany or to Japan together and you played softball for the troops over there. Amazing, amazing, amazing experience.
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