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Royal Pains Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is a transcript of an interview with Henry Winkler (Eddie Lawson) on February 22, 2011, about the USA Network show Royal Pains.

Henry Winkler

Question:
How did you initially get involved with working on Royal Pains?

Henry Winkler:
Oh, if I'm not mistaken this is exactly how it happened. The producer, Andrew, was sitting at dinner and next to him was my dentist and his wife. They overheard them talking that they're looking for the father for Royal Pains. My dentist's wife was a fan; she said, "Oh, you know who it should be? Henry Winkler." A little while later I had breakfast with Michael and Andrew who run the show, brilliantly I might add and they asked me if I would join the cast and I embarrassed myself in the restaurant.

You know what, my wife and I watched every episode; we were appointment television viewers of the show before I ever got the call to see if I was interested.

Question:
So you were a fan then?

Henry Winkler:
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I kept bringing up, details about the show, I probably embarrassed myself and overwhelmed the producers, but I kept saying, "Wow, that car," it gets its air conditioning from the sun; it's a solar car; that's amazing.

Question:
What do you find the most challenging about bringing your character of Eddie to life on screen?

Henry Winkler:
That's a good question. If I had to pick something, the challenge is to make sure that I am toe-to-toe with Mark and Paolo, Jill and Reshma because they are really good; they are the real deal and I want to carry my weight.

Question:
Obviously Eddie is not a character that you're actually like in real life, but are there ways that you're similar to Eddie and in what ways are you not?

Henry Winkler:
All right, let's see. If I'm similar to Eddie, I love my children, I am misunderstood, I am annoying, I have not borrowed $50,000 from my children and then not repaid them. I have not turned my children into the FBI. Aside from that, it's, I'm so close.

Question:
It was just announced a few weeks ago that you were awarded the Order of the British Empire. How did it make you feel.

Henry Winkler:
All right; I got a letter that said, "You must keep this a secret. If the Queen decides to give you an award, would you accept it?" I said, "Can I say yes I would." I would be okay with that. And then six weeks later I get a letter saying, "The Queen of England has graciously agreed to confer on Henry Winkler the order of the British Empire," for the work that I do in England also with children who learn differently. My books, Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever that I co-write with Lynne Oliver, are also popular in the UK and I go over there to tour for the books and I've spoken to, oh, I want to say a hundred thousand students over there also. And so, my work with children who learn differently is what got me to this wonderful honor. The Queen.

Question:
Well, there's such great chemistry between you and, and Hank and Paolo. When you're interacting with them you're like a true father figure.

Henry Winkler:
Yeah honestly, what you see is what you get. You cannot lie; the camera does not lie. And we had so far the most wonderful time together and we don't talk about it a lot; you do it once for the crew, , you go through a scene then for the camera placement; you go through the scene for where you're going to be in the room, how you're gonna move together. You go and you put your makeup on, you go put your costume on. You come back and then you shoot it two or three times and out of that come these unbelievably wonderful scenes. I honestly believe that some of the best work I've done on television are the scenes that I have done with Mark, you know, they are so emotional and layered but also it's great writing.

You know everybody says that when I meet them on the plane or in an airport of some place in America, people talk to me about Royal Pains and they always talk about how much they enjoy everybody talking to each other. It makes me happy.

Question:
As a fan of the show and also a star of the show, why do you think people keep tuning in to watch it?

Henry Winkler:
Do you know what? I think because of what you said; I think that they, first of all, I imagine in the middle of the winter there's this beautiful blue sky show that just takes you away to a place you want to be. Number two, I think because it is well written because after everything is said and done no matter how good the actors are, if it's not on the page, there's a famous expression, if it's not on the page, it's not on the stage. If it's not written well then we actors, you, it's hard to memorize; it's hard to make real. It's hard to get going, so I think that that combined all together, made me a fan.

Question:
Do you if the show has been renewed for next season?

Henry Winkler:
Oh absolutely, I believe, if I'm not mistaken, the show is the highest rated on USA and the third-highest rated show in all of cable. I think USA when I saw them at the press junket in Los Angeles, a few weeks ago, were just thrilled. So yes, we're renewed. I would not be surprised if we're renewed for the fourth year.

Henry Winkler:
Can I ask a question? Do you agree with me? Am I in the right area of why you think the show is a hit?

Question:
Oh, absolutely. I think the writing is absolutely stellar and the relationships between all of you come across as so genuine. And Mark is just so adorable.

Henry Winkler:
Oh, my god, he is so adorable. He has got more energy. There must be 15 people lying on a dog bed because he's got all their energy, curled up somewhere, I'm not kidding. He is an incredible leader on that set, always filled positively. That just is the truth.

Question:
Do you envision a different Eddie R. next season or will Eddie not be different?

Henry Winkler:
Do you know what? I don't know that; I thought about that and I don't try to second-guess the writers because they are so precise. They are there all the time; the writer of the episode, now the writer's room is in California, the set is on Long Island, over in Brooklyn. And the writer who writes the episode is flown out so that they can be there on the set so that if you turn to them and you say, "Oh, my gosh, I need to say something about this," or, "I can't say that, but how about this," they will rewrite on-the-spot.

Andrew and Michael are very clear and I think that's another reason that the show is so successful because you have to have a point of view if you're going to stick and those boys do.

Question:
What would you like to change about your character if you could?

Henry Winkler:
I'd like to be in more episodes, thank you. If I had to change, I would like to be in all episodes. I'm starting a write-in campaign and I'm going to start a Twitter campaign.

Question:
What is your Twitter ID so I can follow you?

Henry Winkler:
Hwinkler4real and I try to write funny things. My friends Rob Cordry or Rob Hubel, they write funny, funny things every day. This morning I wrote, "It's hard for some of us to say no when we should." I didn't get a lot of laughs.

Question:
With Royal Pains having a health and medical theme I'm wondering how is life when filming. Is the food healthy and exercise encouraged?

Henry Winkler:
Well, you know what? Exercise is encouraged; I try to exercise. I have literally walked on the treadmill once in the 90s and I'm going to do that again in 2011.

I will tell you the food on the set is not bad. Now there are some caterers out there that are incredible, but I do because we, because shoot in New York and I stay in New York for long stretches of time, not only do I get to see my granddaughter, but I have found the best hamburger in New York City, a great cheeseburger, which is in the Parker Meridien Hotel and it's called The Burger Joint. So if you like cheeseburgers it used to be PJ Clarke's, but this one has now overtaken it.

Question:
What is your secret to aging well?

Henry Winkler:
Wow I don't know. I would have to say genes; it's one of the better things I got from my parents. They didn't me encouragement; they gave me good genes. I'm thrilled to death. At least I don't yet need a walker.

Question:
You were talking about aspects of the character and how you play him and in order to bring a character to life there's got to be some point where you relate to him. What do you like most about Eddie and what do you like least?

Henry Winkler:
I'll tell you exactly what I like least first. It is so difficult to look my son in the eye, to look Mark in the eye when he says, "You left when mom was sick and we were nine and eleven." And I take no responsibility for that. That is the most difficult - those are the most difficult moments to play because it is, first of all, so against my grain and second of all, I particularly don't like the character at the moment.

And what I like about doing him is his zest for life. And he truly now has come to the point, I believe, unless I'm proven wrong, and I will find out in subsequent scripts, but he's come to the point where he really appreciates his sons. I'll tell you something else I'm not particularly fond of Eddie about. That he dismisses Evan in order to get to Hank. That's very hurtful when I do that, when I look in Paolo Costanzo's eyes because Paolo is right there with you, at the moment. He's right in the moment with you when you are, and he takes it so personally.

Question:
He looks like a wounded puppy.

Henry Winkler:
He does and it just strikes right into my heart when I look in his eye; I'm not kidding.

Question:
As we come to the close of this season, Eddie is caught between something of a rock and a hard place. He has to either be less healthy or find a doctor to lie about him being less healthy in order to stay with his boys or he has to admit he's healthy and go to jail. Which direction would you prefer him to go?

Henry Winkler:
I can't tell you because if I do tell you, I will give away Thursday night and my producers will sue me. I mean literally take me to court.

Question:
You were known as Fonzie and that's such an iconic role, but I thought it's interesting how lately you've been playing some very offbeat characters like Eddie and your character in Arrested Development. Is it fun to play sort of flawed characters after being best known for a character who is sort of known for being so cool and perfect?

Henry Winkler:
You know what is interesting is that I went to college and studied drama. I went to drama school and got a master's degree. So I really wanted to be prepared; I really love my job. I am filled with gratitude that I get to do my job. The Fonz was as far as me as you could possibly be. I'm playing this tough Italian; I'm a short Jew. He rode a motorcycle and I had trouble with a two-wheeler. So that's my job, is to create these people and make them come so to life that I'm having fun and you're having fun watching. So I thoroughly enjoy and I thoroughly enjoy Eddie and I'll repeat it again because there is this room of writers in Los Angeles and they are young and then there are veteran writers in that room who could, and each one of these people could run their own show. So when I say it's well written, it, these people are great at what they do.

Question:
Christine Ebersole has always been a very underrated actress. What's she like to work with?

Henry Winkler:
I'll tell you what she's like; she is a life force unto herself and I was in my car, I listen to Sirius radio and I listen to satellite and I listen to Broadway, musicals. She just yesterday came into my car singing from Gray Gardens, which I believe she won a Tony for. And it just lit the, it was like the sun shot into my car. You know, she is just fantastic.

Question:
Now I know you can't give away anything, but I just wanted to make sure that with the problems that Eddie is going through, you are going to be back for season three, right?

Henry Winkler:
You know what, that's my write-in campaign. That's what I'm lobbying for.

Question:
Okay, well, I'll have to write in for you then.

Henry Winkler:
Thank you.

Question:
Do you have any new children's projects coming out?

Henry Winkler:
We finished the Hank Zipzer series; we did 17 novels, and honestly, yesterday at 2:48 in the afternoon, Lynne Oliver and I finished the first novel of our brand-new series for Scholastic, which will be out in 2012. So we're writing a whole new series of for kids, very funny and the underpinning of it will be about bullying.

Question:
Can you talk about your progression as an actor from your first experience on a set and compare it to your Royal Pains experience, how much has changed and what elements are still the same?

Henry Winkler:
Do you know what is interesting? I'll tell you what has changed. The size of the camera, the size of the lights, aside from that, acting is acting is acting. The same process that I did in 1974 on Happy Days is the process that we do on Royal Pains in 2011. And that is absolutely the truth. Nothing changes because the doing of it, the art of it, the tradition of it is exactly the same. What has changed is on the set of Happy Days, which was Stage 19 on Paramount lot, the same stage that Lucy used when she did I Love Lucy. We had a camera that was so gigantic it took three people to move the dolly and now the camera is tiny compared and most of it is tape, which looks like film. You know when I did the movie, Click, with Adam Sandler, it was the first time that they used the Genesis, which was the tape camera designed to make movies. Now, today, they can shoot movies on your home, you know, camera that you take photographs as a family with, through Canon, I think. Isn't that amazing?

Question:
How would you describe Eddie's relationship with Hank and Evan?

Henry Winkler:
Eddie wants Hank's approval. Eddie has Paolo's, Evan's, approval and doesn't yet completely appreciate it.

Question:
Can you tell me how you got involved in writing books and what advice would you give a young person who wants to be a author?

Henry Winkler:
Oh, that's a good question. I got involved, somebody said to me, there was a lull in my acting career; who knew there would be a lull in your acting career. And he said to me, "Why don't you write books for kids about your learning challenges?" And I didn't immediately picked up on it because I literally thought I have nothing to say, I can't write a book; I'm stupid. I was told I was stupid; I was lazy. Two years later he said the same thing and this time I said, "Okay," and I met Lynne. He introduced me to Lynne Oliver and since 2003 we've been writing together. And how we write is I go to her office every day; it usually takes about two-and-a-half months to write a novel. They're 133 pages long. And I walk around her office and she sits at the computer and we literally argue over every word. We literally write it together and what I would say to young people is this. There is more than one way to get to where you want to go; there's always somebody who can help you do what you don't know how to do. And just sit in front of your computer if you can use one and write five minutes a day; just write whatever comes to your mind. And pretty soon, you'd be shocked at what you have.

Question:
Of all the roles that you've taken on in movies and film and etc., what's your favorite?

Henry Winkler:
Wow, all right and this is the absolute truth, I don't a favorite. Every time I think of a project, I always think, "Wow, this is great, no, no, no, this one is great." It's like my children; I don't have a favorite. I'll tell you what, I live with gratitude. I wanted to do this since I was seven; I'm actually still doing it and I earn a living doing this. I am so grateful I don't even know how to explain it to you. And that is the truth. If I were to give you two words, I would give you tenacity, which helps you get where you want to go and gratitude, which allows you not to be angry when you get there.

Question:
Is that the advice you would give to someone wanting to go into acting?

Henry Winkler:
Well I would also give them the advice of preparation. Do you know there's so many young people they think that it, I don't know what has gotten into the culture, but they think that, oh, I can do that; I'm just going to do that. And I think if you're going to do something you want to be there for longer than a minute. You have to think of yourself as a forest ranger. You plant a tree and you want to tend that tree for the next 75 years.

Question:
When you approach a scene, be it a comedy or drama, what is the main thing that you do first?

Henry Winkler:
Ah, the first thing I do is. I have to read it very slowly because reading is still difficult for me. But what I look for is what do I want and from there, I then build. Because when you know what you want you can get it and you have to figure out how to get it with somebody else's words on that page.

Question:
Given how Eddie faces a life in prison, how challenging was it to play what he's forced to confront internally, but also maintain a sense of humor?

Henry Winkler:
His sense of humor keeps him buoyant and I think if he did not con, put on the face on the world, he would explode and just splatter.

Question:
Now that your career's evolved into playing a father figure, in what ways can you now relate to Tom Bosley in his job as an actor back then on Happy Days?

Henry Winkler:
Well, he was a great dad, wasn't he. I mean, he was a smart guy. I saw him on Broadway before I ever got to California. I saw him in Fiorello; I think he won the Tony. What I've always said is that he was our father figure for ten years in television, on television and he was our father figure in real life for 30.

Question:
And do you ever find yourself looking back and relating to what he went through as an actor?

Henry Winkler:
I do, but I also look back and I relate to being a dad just from living through three grown children. You know, my youngest is 27, my daughter is 30 and my oldest is 39.

Question:
What kept you going throughout the years to not allow yourself to be stereotyped by a character?

Henry Winkler:
Well, there's a phrase, that was first said in 1946, and my whole life, that, that when I give a speech, in public speaking, my speech is based on it. It's if you will it, it is not a dream. And I now know that is the truth, the cosmic truth. It just works, at least in the western hemisphere, it is the truth

Question:Henry Winkler:
Well, all of that gets me out of bed. I do need to work because when you have a daughter with a credit card, trust me, you need to work. I love my job. I love my job.

Question:
Regarding Eddie, he's kind of a bad guy, so what gets him out of bed in the morning?

Henry Winkler:
I think a good Ruben gets him out of bed, a really great sandwich.

Question:
What has been your favorite episode of Royal Pains so far?

Henry Winkler:
I don't really have a favorite because I love all the different scenes; I love the scene in the hospital cafeteria that we just did. I love the scene at the table when I yell at Hank in the outdoor restaurant. I love the scene in my house when he came and he wouldn't have dinner and I gave him a kiss on the forehead, which Mark was not ready for because I never rehearsed it. And you see his reaction and it is to die for.

Question:
What's going to be coming up for you next?

Henry Winkler:
I'm going to do a movie in Boston; I just can't tell you which one yet, starting at the end of March. I am going to go back to Royal Pains, which I'm so excited about. And writing the new series for Scholastic.

Question:
You said you were a fan of Royal Pains before you were on the show. What other shows are you a fan of?

Henry Winkler:
You know what I love? I love The Good Wife. I think that is just a great show. The new, Chicago Code, I'm enjoying. Oh, my god, Modern Family. That is, that's a killer. What else do I watch? I love Royal Pains, we talked about that yeah, and I like Rachel Maddow. You know what else I like? You know Burn Notice? I think that's a really good show.

Question:
I know you've produced a lot. Can you talk about working on McGuyver?

Henry Winkler:
The greatest day of my producing life was when Richard Dean Anderson walked in the door. We had met every handsome, wonderful, star, leading man and then all of a sudden Richard Dean came in and he couldn't read the script without his glasses. At that moment when he was searching in his bag for his glasses he got the part because he was flawed. He was not perfect; he was and then turned out to be an unbelievable leader on the set for seven years. I've got to tell you something else about it. The most difficult thing I've ever done as a producer, trying to find sources for McGuyverisms.

Question:
Do you have a dream project or dream role that you would like to either work on or play?

Henry Winkler:
Wow, that's, that is a good question. I would love to play a mute that I would have to communicate everything only through my body without words. So I've thought about that for a very long time. When I was younger, I wanted to be Zorro. But I've given that up. So my dream really is to continue working and to be finished with acting before acting is finished with me. That is my dream.

Question:
How did you get started in acting?

Henry Winkler:
At the old repertory theater. I made 120, 172 dollars a week as a, an actor at the Yale Repertory theater after graduating from the Drama School. And from there it just grew, but that was my very first professional job, June 30, 1970 in East Hampton, Long Island, at the John Drew Theater, the Yale Repertory Theater did a Summer of Story theater. And that was my very first job and I had a Pontiac Lemans with a bad oil tray or something like that. I wanted to beat it into submission, this car, brand-new, got it, didn't drive, hated it.

Question:
If you could pick a spot, where would you be and what you film there at your location, where do you fall in love, any little small towns, areas that you could talk about right now?

Henry Winkler:
I will tell you that Boston is a great city. Because it is large enough to learn your independence and small enough to make your own. Connecticut as a whole is a gorgeous state. I love the lobster in Maine; New Hampshire is fun to drive through to get to the lobster. But I've often thought, I've asked my wife this, where would we live if we didn't live here because I never really attached to LA. My children were born here, my dogs are Los Angelinos, I work here, but my heart is in New York. And my soul is in Montana where I fly-fish for trout.

Question:
You don't get anxiety like a lot of New Yorkers do in the Big Sky country?

Henry Winkler:
No I don't as a matter of fact, I am in heaven. My, the new book on May first is about what I have learned on the river that I apply to my life.

Question:
What's the biggest fish you ever caught?

Henry Winkler:
Last summer, I caught a trout that was 25 inches long and 6 pounds. And I'm still secretly screaming inside that I caught him and then of course I released him.

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