Henry Winkler on Adjusting to Quarantine Lifestyle and Why He Just Shaved His ‘COVID Beard’ (Exclusive)
Henry Winkler’s life amid quarantine has been eventful — it’s also been a time of reflection. The TV legend has a new children’s book out, Lights, Camera, Danger!, the second installment of his Alien Superstar middle school series, co-written with Lin Oliver. The book helped him get through some tough times while in isolation.
“Until about a month ago, my glass was half full. We just spill it everywhere, with the weight of what’s happening. The country I thought I grew up in, the country I was taught that I live in, is all of a sudden like the sands of time going through one of those sand clocks,” Winkler tells ET’s Kevin Frazier. “I’m watching it drift into I don’t know where, and I was getting very sad. It was getting to be bone crushing.”
“There are times when my natural effervescence pulls me out of it,” he mentions of how he pulled through. “Writing, being proud of my book and that it’s coming out in just a few days.”
Winkler, who’s written over 30 novels and grew with dyslexia, had no idea that he would go on to become an author. But during a moment in 2003, when, as he puts it, “my career was not on fire,” “somebody suggested I write these books and now there are 35 novels that I’ve written.”
“I have a writing partner, Lin Oliver. I have written in her office since 2003,” he notes. “She types, I talk, then she has an idea. I wait, she types, she reads it back to me and we argue over every word — and all of a sudden there are 35 novels.”
“Honestly we write for the child, like me, who doesn’t like to read and likes to laugh,” he explains. “And we want to be the book they read when they’re not assigned. We want to be the book that they take for entertainment and then the underpinning is, what happens if they find out who I really am, will I be accepted? The star of the TV show that the alien is on is a wonderful young lady, her mother is constantly on her about her weight body shaming. So there are lots of underpinnings along with the comedy.”
At the end of the month, Winkler will celebrate his 75th birthday, a milestone that also inspired him to experiment with a new summer style.
“OK, I grew a beard,” Winkler shares. “And then all of a sudden one day, I had hair down to my shoulders…My son [Max] said, ‘Dad, how do you like your beard?’ I said, ‘I’m loving it, look at it!’ He said, ‘You know, you might want to rethink that,’ and I cut it off because my face was feeling heavy.”
“And all of a sudden, he said, ‘You know, you’ve lost 10 years. You look younger.’ And I got a haircut,” he quips. “I used to grow a beard early on. So May 5 is our anniversary. My wife [Stacey Weitzman] loves a beard, so I would grow a beard until May 5 and then as soon as we started filming whatever it was, Happy Days or Arrested Development, Barry, I then would shave…This time I got to keep it.”
With Hollywood productions shutting down amid the coronavirus, the actor, who won an Emmy in 2018 for his role as Gene Cousineau on Barry, is anxious to get back to set.
“We were reading the scripts for Barry. On March 13, they said, ‘Go home and don’t come back,'” he recalls. “Then we heard July, then we heard September, now January…Praying we go back to work in January. I’ve been sitting here waiting to be Gene Cousineau since December of 2018.”
Winkler, however, is thankful for his health as he’s about to celebrate growing a year older.
“At this moment, just being healthy is a great gift. It really is,” he says. “If we can vote — and I don’t mean this in any way, whoever you vote for — but if we can have a vote that is not tampered with, that is not overseen, that is not watched, but Americans go and do what is their right – that’s a birthday gift.”
Lights, Camera, Danger! is out now.
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