To some — OK, millions — Henry Winkler will always be best known as Arthur 'Fonzie' Fonzarelli from the iconic TV series Happy Days. But to a whole new generation of fans, Winkler gets recognized for a much more recent role.
"I did a Broadway play in October and a little 10-year-old boy came up to me and said, 'Hi I'm your fan,'" Winkler tells TVGuide.com. "And I went, 'Oh, you read my books?' and he said, 'No, I love Royal Pains."
Since Winkler's debut on the show in Season 2, the actor has made quite an impression as the charming yet calculating Eddie R. Lawson. Eight months after Eddie last popped in the Hamptons for Evan's wedding, the character returns on Wednesday's episode (9/8c, USA) to help Hank (Mark Feuerstein) deal with his painkiller problem.
Although Eddie comes back to the Hamptons because of Hank, he also lends a helping hand — and a listening ear — to Evan (Paulo Costanzo). "I had the most fun in this episode because usually its Hank and Eddie, and Eddie always leaves Evan in the dust. This episode is just really one-on-one Evan," Winkler says. "What I think is lovely about the episode is that Eddie helps him answer questions for himself. Eddie leads him down the path of questions and Evan then is able to take care of business."
To help Evan help Hank, Eddie also enlists a reformed party girl named Lacy, played by Jenna Elfman. "She's an old friend and she helped Eddie in the past. So, she is the first person that he turns to," Winkler says.
After being in denial about his dependency for so long, how will Hank react? "Hank is a really good doctor and it's really hard to see yourself," Winkler says. "He eventually has the wherewithal, with Jeremiah and Divya, [to] figure out all together what the problem is."
A Royal Pains intervention — or an invitation as Evan & Co. call it — might seem like a dark turn for the blue-sky series, but Winkler praised the writers for making Hank's issue feel organic. "It wasn't as if he was seeking drugs," he says. "He just took more than he was supposed to of a drug that was prescribed to him and, initially, was supposed to be helpful."
As a fan of the show, Winkler also points out that this isn't the show's first venture into darker waters. "My character in the beginning was dark. My character was selling them out to the FBI," Winkler says. "They introduced me as being a little bit shady, but in their hearts ... they really wanted it to grow into a loving family."
Four years after debuting as Hank and Evan's long-lost, less-than-perfect father, Winkler says he still looks forward to being asked to return to Royal Pains. "It is truly a protected, safe, creative environment," he says. "I do whatever comes to my mind and then they decide once they're in the cutting room what stays and what doesn't."
Those improv skills will come in handy this fall when Winkler plays father to Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) and Mona Lisa (Jenny Slate) on the season premiere of Parks and Recreation. "With these people, I've found you just get out of their way because they are funny, funny human beings," Winkler says. "Jenny Slate and Ben as my children are insane. You literally sit back and just watch them together and you think, 'Oh, I'm in this scene too? Oh my God,' because you get carried away with them."
Winkler says he was "thrilled" to get a call about the part, for which he plays "a doctor who is avenging his son." He was recently asked to return for a third episode following his appearance in the hour-long premiere.
With his new role on Parks and Recreation, his recent returns to Royal Pains and Arrested Development, and his series regular role on Childrens Hospital, Winkler is enjoying his busy schedule. "I'm a lucky human being," he says.
Royal Pains airs Wednesday at 9/8c on USA. Are you excited for Eddie's return?