Happy Days star Henry Winkler has earned himself a reputation for being one of Hollywood’s nicest actors, but he doesn’t think it’s a fitting description.
During a talk with PEOPLE to promote his upcoming memoir, Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond, the 78-year-old admitted that fans have him all wrong, and he’s only now understanding that himself.
“What I finally realized is I’m not nice,” he said.
The Emmy winner admitted that he’s a “joyful” guy, and he thinks he has a pleasant personality. But he doesn’t see himself as particularly nice because certain triggers make him lose his cool. And after a decade in therapy, he still can’t get those under control.
“I’ll tell you what really makes me angry is not being seen, being dismissed,” shared Winkler. “It is still an old trigger, and it is palpable. It is powerful.”
He told the publication that the response stems from several experiences. Henry Winkler is the son of German refugees, and that made his childhood in 1950s New York difficult. He also said that he’s had countless experiences where other celebrities treated him rudely when he tried to approach them at events to praise their work.
“A curtain comes down [in my mind]. Boom,” he explained. “I mean, it is hurtful, unnecessary. Because all I want to do is tell you how much I appreciate what you do.”
Henry Winkler Focuses on Gratitude and Kindness
Nonetheless, the Barry star shared that gratitude helps him navigate his days without the bitterness of the past, and he’s “enjoying being on this earth.” He also believes that his negative experiences have given him the gift of empathy—and that makes him “kind” instead of “nice.”
“I’m kind because I appreciate it. I’m kind because I understand what it is not to have received kindness,” he continued.
While on the topic, Henry Winkler recalled his struggles with dyslexia. As he’s publicly shared many times, Winkler battled the condition for 37 years before finally being diagnosed. The symptoms made it difficult for him to get through school and made table reads “humiliating.” Those experiences gave him self-esteem issues that he’s still working through.
However, despite struggling to read throughout nearly half his life, he still graduated with a master’s from Yale and instantly built an iconic acting career when he became The Fonz. He said sometimes people don’t have the choice to give in to their self-doubt. They simply have to keep moving, which is something he learned when he went through periods where work was hard to find, and he still had a family to support.
“You have to jump off the precipice and just trust you’re going to fly,” he shared.
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