Henry Winkler finally won a Primetime Emmy Award for his role on the comedy series Barry in 2018. The actor was clearly shocked as he made his way to the stage to accept his trophy. And then the crowd looked on in awe as he gave a speech that he’d been waiting 43 years to deliver.
Winkler was born in Manhattan, New York, on October 30, 1945. His parents had made the journey to America from Berlin, Germany, a few years earlier – just before the beginning of World War II. From an early age, the young Winkler knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up: he was going to become an actor.
After obtaining a master of fine arts degree from the Yale School of Drama, Winkler’s first role was appearing as an extra on a game show. He was paid just $10 for the job. He then made appearances in television series such as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show before getting his big break.
Winkler was cast as Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on Happy Days in 1973. The Garry Marshall-created sitcom premiered the following January and ran for more than ten years. Now regarded as a seminal show in TV history, it was only after the actor’s character received a bigger role that the series turned into such a huge hit. “The Fonz” was Happy Days’ breakout character – and the one that made Winkler a star.
Winkler’s celebrity hasn’t died down in the decades since the show ended, and he’s recently had guest-starring roles on Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development. Then in 2018 he began playing Gene Cousineau on Barry. The HBO series, created by and starring Bill Hader, is about an former U.S. Marine who becomes a hitman.
At the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards, Winkler was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. He was up against stiff competition in Louie Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Titus Burgess, Brian Tyree Henry, Kenan Thompson and Tony Shalhoub. But he took everything in his stride – after all, it wasn’t his first time at the television awards show.
In the mid- to late-’70sWinkler had been nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category three consecutive times for Happy Days. He also received nods for Outstanding Informational Program for Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? in 1979 and Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for The Practice in 2000. But each time, he had missed out on the honor.
The actor has also received two Daytime Emmy Awards during his career. But in 2018 his luck in the Primetime arena changed. During the first award presentation of the night, The Crown stars Claire Foy and Matt Smith announced that Winkler had been named Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Barry.
Winkler looked stunned when his name was read out as the winner. He kissed his wife Stacey before approaching Hader and co-creator Alec Berg for a hug. Then the star headed on stage, where he collected his trophy and made a speech that was decades in the making.
“Oh my God,” he said to the crowd, many of whom had given him a standing ovation. “I only have 37 seconds, I wrote this 43 years ago.” Winkler was referring to the fact that it had been over 42 years since he had first been nominated for a Primetime Emmy – and now, he had finally won.
The audience laughed at Winkler’s joke and he then shared a quote from Hollywood attorney Skip Brittenham. “If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you,” the lawyer had told him. The star added, “And tonight, I got to clear the table.”
Winkler thanked the people behind Barry for the opportunity. “If you get a chance to work with Bill Hader or Alec Berg, run, don’t walk,” he said. “Thank you for producing us, for creating us, for directing us, and Bill for acting with us.”
He also expressed his gratitude to the writers and publicists on the show as well as his agent and his wife of 40 years, Stacey. And he ended his energetic speech by giving a shout-out to their two children Zoe and Max and his stepson Jed from Stacey’s previous marriage. Although the kids are now grown up, he said, “You can go to bed now. Daddy won!”
Winkler received another standing ovation from the star-studded audience as he left the stage. And in the press room backstage, the actor revealed how much it meant to him to win a Primetime Emmy after all this time. “I was 27 when I started doing ‘The Fonz,’” he said.
And referring to the Emmy statuette, he added, “I’m now 72 and I’m standing right here in front of you with her. Wow.” The actor later expressed his excitement on Twitter and thanked fans for their kind words. “Thank you everyone for your wonderfully warm wishes on my win tonight,” he wrote. “It’s thrilling.”
Viewers were pleased to see the star honored for his talent at the awards ceremony. “They say he’s the nicest guy in Hollywood, so I’m glad he finally won an Emmy,” commented one YouTube user. Another added, “I love how the other nominees all looked genuinely happy that Henry won.”
And other fans stated that Winkler was extremely worthy of the prize, both because of his kind personality and his perseverance. “The Fonz finally won. He should have won years ago, am really happy for him! You finally did it, Fonz!” one wrote. Someone else added, “Couldn’t have gone to a more deserving guy! He’s a treasure!”
During the evening, 72-year-old Winkler also reunited with his Happy Days co-star Ron Howard. The director played central character Richie Cunningham on the show and formed a close friendship with Winkler, who is godfather to his actress daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard. The pair posed for a photograph together and Howard stated that it was a “great moment” when Winkler won.
Elsewhere, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Game of Thrones were the big winners of the evening, and one of the most memorable moments was 96-year-old Betty White, who has eight Emmys, receiving a lifetime achievement award. There was also an on-stage proposal during the awards show. After being given the prize for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special for helming the Oscars, Glen Weiss asked girlfriend Jan Svendsen to marry him – and she said yes.
But for many, the night belonged to Henry Winkler. And following the Emmy Awards, the actor revealed that he plans to keep his statuette right beside his bed. “It is so nice,” he said, explaining that the win has made him forget about all the times that he didn’t win. “I am so happy that I’m in this moment right now, winning,” he added. “I think it would have been pretty great [back] then too. But tonight, it was meant to be.”