Henry Winkler Couldn’t Read Happy Days Scripts Because Of Medical Condition

By Zack Zagranis | Published

In the ’70s, nobody was cooler than Arthur Fonzarelli, AKA The Fonz. The leather jacket-wearing Happy Days icon, played to greaser perfection by Henry Winkler, was so cool he could fix any ailing machine just by elbowing it. Unbeknownst to anyone, however, even his costars, was that the one thing Winkler’s Fonzi couldn’t cure with a leather-clad elbow was his own dyslexia.

Henry Winkler Didn’t Find Out He Was Dyslexic Until He Was 31

henry winkler grease

As The Hollywood Reporter reveals, Henry Winkler’s biggest challenge on the set of Happy Days wasn’t keeping his hair perfect but reading the scripts the cast was given before every table read. Winkler revealed in his upcoming memoir Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond that he didn’t receive a proper diagnosis for his dyslexia until he was 31 years old—well into Happy Days‘ 11-season run. “Even in the midst of Happy Days, at the height of my fame and success, I felt embarrassed, inadequate,” writes Winkler.

Winkler Would Stumble And Miss Lines During Table Reads

The actor went on to describe how much he dreaded the show’s weekly Monday night table reads. “I would lose my place or stumble,” confessed Henry Winkler. The actor revealed that he would leave out words or whole lines, sometimes messing up a joke for the other actors because he couldn’t read his lines right.

It took his stepson getting diagnosed with dyslexia for Winkler to finally admit that he also might be suffering from a learning disorder. Rather than relief, however, the revelation brought a deep-seated anger bubbling to the surface. According to Henry Winkler, when he discovered that he had “something with a name,” he was livid.

Winkler Was Outraged And Confused For So Long

The actor had gone through hell as a child only to find out that what his parents had blamed on his own lack of drive was actually something far beyond his control. “All the yelling, all the humiliation, all the screaming arguments in my house as I was growing up — for nothing…. It was genetic!” Winkler writes in his book. Eventually, Henry Winkler learned to fight through his anger and overcome it.

Henry Winkler’s Career

Henry Winkler’s post-Happy Days career has been an eclectic mix of more sitcom fare like his role as hapless lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn in Arrested Development to more adult fare like HBO’s Barry, where he plays acting coach Gene Cousineau. At some point, Winkler also became a regular in Adam Sandler‘s crew, appearing in The Waterboy (1998), Click (2006), Little Nicky (2000), You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and Sandy Wexler (2017).

Perhaps Henry Winkler’s most recognizable role as far as Gen Z goes is that of Dr. Lu Saperstein—father of Jean Ralphio and Mona Lisa Saperstein—on the series Parks and Recreation. Despite only appearing in eight episodes of the series in total, Winkler’s interactions with his spoiled adult children, played hilariously by Ben Schwartz and Jenny, have become something of a meme on short-form video sites like TikTok.

Today, Winkler Helps Children Struggling With Dyslexia

Henry Winkler

In the decades since he first got the diagnosis, Winkler has been open about his struggle with dyslexia. In an effort to make sure other kids didn’t go through childhood feeling bad about their battle with dyslexia, Henry Winkler authored two children’s books offering a humorous take on life with a learning disability. The books Here’s Hank and Hank Zipzer, The World’s Greatest Underachiever, are available from most online booksellers, as is Winkler’s memoir Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond.