Henry Winkler is a real Hollywood legend. He is over 70(!) but his personal charm hasn’t worn off over the years. When Henry sat down and he started to tell his funny stories, I felt that my chat parter is a young guy. Henry appeared in many movies and tv shows. Behind the camera he was the producer of the popular tv series, MacGyver, but he also stood on the stage many times. He won two Golden Globes (1977, 1978) and a Primetime Emmy Award (2018) for the HBO televison show Barry. However this year he couldn’t take home the award, he still earned an other Primetime Emmy nominaton last week for the same character, Gene. I met with the actor beginning of the last season of Barry in Los Angeles.
First of all, may I have a personal question…? I heard that you have some Hungarian roots, am I correct…?
Oh, yes, I have! My grandparents on my father’s side were from Budapest… And we really had gulash a lot at home! (laugh)
I also heard that you signed for the Barry in a very traditional way…
How did it feel like to sitting on an audition as a legend?
I will tell you… First of all: I don’t even think about being a legend. I think that I’m seventy-two years old actor. I dreamt about what I am doing since I was seven and I’m still doing it. It’s pretty amazing. There are a lot of actors who say they know my work. I am on tape. You don’t get the job. If you have to go to an audition, you have to swallow some stuff. And you go and you sit on those chairs… And other young actors are looking at you…
Did you ever had an uncomfortable experience on an audition?
I met a young actor, he was looking at me than he asked: ’Why are you here?’ And I said: ’Damn! I’m trying to get a job!… You?’ (laugh)
And how was your ’Barry’ audition experience ?
So I went into that room and I met Bill (Hader) and just a way he was it made me comfortable. And just a way that the casting person was, made me comfortable. And I’ve seen I making Bill laugh… OMG! And than you are wait… And you wait. And you don’t hear. And you feel like ’Ok, now I am falling off the world, I am off the radar.’ Well, at least I had a good time. Than I got a call from Bill, who said: „You know, I wrote a scene last night.” And he sent it to me and it was unbelievly great. Than he asked: ’You wanna come in to play?’ And in my mind I’m going to say „No! I don’t! Because I might going to f* up. Maybe I’m not going to be as good as I was!” So I answered: „Of course I want Bill! It will be a pleasure.’ (laugh) I’m telling you the truth! (laugh)
It’s interesting you speaking out about the audition process, because it’s something what we see in your character, Gene Cousineau. How much from your experience you brought into your character?
Truly, the job of being an actor everything that is you see or you hear, or you experience in the world, goes in and than you use it. You use who you are. And than you add the condition of what they wrote. What the people say about you, what that the writer say about you, how do you talk to people, what you say about yourself… So every teacher I’ve ever had is in this guy.
What you think, what are the qualities of a good (drama) teacher?
When we prepared for the show we visited an acting class. I’ve been there on that class with Bill when the teacher shouted with his students and made a girl cry to pull out some good performance from her… You always say that it’s in the name of the Art. But what you doing is: you probably feeling very powerful and making somebody feeling really shitty. I believe you can create art without that much sadistyc a behavior.
What happens is somebody is just untalented?
Oh, there’s such a thing. There are a lot of people called and not a lot of people who can do. There are a lot of people who think that it is not important to prepare themself. And acting is 5,OOO years old. And there is a reason. And there are great lessons you can learn about being professional. I did not want to be a flash in the pan. So I went trough college, I went trough graduate school.
As an actor how often are you afraid?
All the time. I don’t know I am afraid because I am a short Jewish. (laugh…) But I had to take something what’s interesting. Trough on all my journey, this is what I learnt: the anticipatory fear is worst that we are actually doing. But I didn’t know that for the longest time. Like sixty years… (laugh). I was asked to be Scrogge in movie An American Christmas Carol in 1979 by ABC. I thought, OMG, there are so many great actors than have ever played Scrogge. Will I ever be able to stand till their toe with their performances I could find six million reasons to say no. And than I said: „Yes!” And now I am so happy that I did that.
You mentioned that to educate yourself was very important for you. Do you belive, that only a great education can make an actor successful and valuable in his career or there are some actors with innate abilty and talents?
That’s a really good question. I think for me, the education was really important. Not just to have education, but I learnt stuff I didn’t know. Ryan Gosling has an innate ability. Anthony Hopkins, Jack Nicolson their understanding is beyond. I don’t know if I could put myself in that cathegory. I had to work to get here today.