INTERVIEW: Henry Winkler Talks HBO’s Barry

Henry Winkler and Bill Hader in Barry.
Credit: John P. Johnson/HBO.

Henry Winkler joined Cultured Vultures for an interview as the veteran actor was in Chicago for a screening of the first two episodes of Barry. It’s been a pretty good few weeks for the Winkler family as his son, Max, had a new feature film, Flower, open in theaters on March 16th.

Thanks for joining us today. How is Chicago treating you?
Well, I’ve been here many times starting with the Happy Days softball time. We played an exhibition at the Cubbies game. I’ve been here many times. I love Chicago. I love the beef sandwich at Portillo’s.

What was it that attracted you to the role of Gene Cousineau in Barry?
One: Lighting. Two: Bill Hader. Three: Alec Berg. Now that I’m in it, the ensemble. Every actor is wonderful, thoughtful, and my acting class — every one of those kids is a home run hitter.

Given that Gene is a beloved acting coach in the series, is there an acting coach who inspired your take on the character?
Bobby Lewis. There are several. I had teachers in college —I went to Emerson and the Yale Drama School— that were a little mean. Some who were really nurturing and I combined them all. Then there was a guy who taught in Beverly Hills. Talk about a circle. March 16th, my son’s movie opens. March 25th, I go on the air with Barry. Zoey Deutch is the star of his movie. Her father is the consultant to acting teachers for the boys on the show. Now that’s a circle!

In addition to acting, you’ve written a number of children’s books.
34.

When should we expect to see another?
September. That will be the very last Hank Zipzer ever. He, of course, is based on my life —a little boy whose got a learning challenge, whose glass is half full— he just spills it everywhere.

How proud are you of Max’s career?
He told us when he was ten that he was going to be a director and he never wavered. He’s doing what he loves and I think he’s really good at what he does. He’s also a really wonderful human being. He is the youngest. He has a sister and an older brother, who are also fabulous. One is a teacher and the other is an executive.

I didn’t have a chance to check IMDb to see if you two had worked together.
I have only done his student films. He has never asked me to be in his professional directing so I don’t know why. I think that sucks.

Would you like the chance?
You know what? He’s really good. I listen to him. He directed me, as a matter of fact, for the audition for Barry.

How’d that go?
I got the part! He was at home but he’s very strict.

Thanks again for your time and congrats on the new series!
I’m very happy to chat with you.

Have a Happy Passover.
You, too. I hope you find the Afikomen.

Created by Alec Berg and Bill Hader, the new dark comedy series, Barry, airs Sunday nights at 10:30 PM ET/PT on HBO.  Following the series premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, the first of eight episodes aired March 25, 2018.

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