8 actors who were almost cast on 'Happy Days'

Which Monkees were up for the role of Fonzie? What other stand-up comic read for Mork?

Would you watch 11 seasons of a sitcom named Cool? That was almost the title of Happy Days. Wise move there. While the Fonz was indeed cool, that title would not quite capture the warm and fuzzy nostalgic feelings of Garry Marshall's smash comedy. 

Speaking of the Fonz, that was not the only potential difference in the classic 1970s TV show. Fonzie was almost played by a couple rock stars. In an alternate universe, perhaps MeTV is airing episodes of Cool… with the Monkees.

There were a handful of other notable actors up for major roles on Happy Days. Try to imagine the show with the following cast.

You might also be interested in these 8 actors who were almost cast on Gilligan's Island.

1. Micky Dolenz as the Fonz


Hey, hey, we're the Fonzies / People say we Fonzie around… There is no bigger "What If?" surrounding this feel-good series than the potential casting of Arthur Fonzarelli. The creators were keen on Dolenz, and even Winkler thought his chances were slim when he spotted this adorable pop star at an audition. But it came down to inches. Six of them. Dolenz was thought to be too tall, towering over his costars. The 5' 6" Winkler fit the frame perfectly. Aaaaaayyyyy!

Image: monkees.net

2. Michael Nesmith as the Fonz


Dolenz was not the only Monkee considered for the king of cool. He was too tall, too. Perhaps they could have just had the actor "sit on it."

Image: fanpop

3. Harold Gould


On February 25, 1972, the anthology series Love, American Style aired a charming tale of a Wisconsin family purchasing its first television set, "Love and the Happy Days." The patriarch of the clan was played by Harold Gould, who would later become Rhoda's dad. He did not make the jump to the Happy Days spin-off, however. We should also mention the often forgotten elder Cunningham sibling Chuck, who was played here by Ric Carrott, and later Gavan O'Herlihy and Randolph Roberts.

Image: isolafelice

4. Dennis Weaver as Howard Cunningham


An early pilot for Happy Days featured Ron Howard, Marion Ross and Dennis Weaver as the core of the Cunningham clan. However, the Duel and McCloud star dropped out.

5. Susan Neher as Joanie


Like Gould, the Neher can claim to have played her character on television. She too appeared in the Love, American Style segment that launched the series, bringing a much different look and vibe to the young Cunningham daughter.

6. Richard Lewis as Mork


What would a neurotic Mork have been like? According to the book I'm Dying Up Here: Heartbreak and High Times in Stand-Up Comedy's Golden Era, Richard Lewis and Robin Williams found themselves in the same Paramount audition room for the guest spot in "My Favorite Orkan." The two budding comics were told to come up with alien voices. Lewis auditioned first, and could only think to do a Danish accent. He stopped in the session and said, "You know, Robin Williams is next. He is Mork, and if he doesn't get this, then you are all crazy." Lewis was always self-deprecating.

Image: Diary of a Young Comic, 1977

7. Robbie Benson as Richie


As told in the book Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms, 1974-1984, Robbie Benson read for the role of Richie (along with another future Happy Days actor below) but did not want the part. A few years later, the young actor would appear in a TV movie called The Death of Richie. Different Richie.

8. Don Most as Potsie and Richie


Anson Williams was hours late to his audition for the role of Potsie. In the meantime, the producers had auditioned Don Most and loved the actor. Most also auditioned for the lead role of Richie. The studio loved Most, but felt his looks were not in line with the vision of Potsie, so they created Ralph for him.

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


NickPowers 31 months ago
Henry Winkler was the perfect Fonz! When you think of the Fonz you think of that great big smile from Henry Winkler!

That being said, Micky Dolenz would have made a great Fonz and I think Michael Nesmith would have played the part great as well! I am a huge Monkees fan, and I read a comment on here that was very dismissive of The Monkees and that really upsets me.

The Monkeesdo not get the credit they deserve! Mickey Dolenz has one of the greatest voices in the history of Pop music! Let me also add this, I've worked in radio for over 25 years, I've hosted morning shows in music oriented radio and I've also been the play-by-play voice of five different Major League Baseball affiliated Minor League Baseball teams, and two college baseball teams, I've met a ton of celebrities over the years in my radio career, actors, singers, politicians, and tons of baseball players! I've interviewed Micky Dolenz twice, and I could honestly say he is the nicest, coolest celebrity I've ever met!

I'm glad Henry Winkler ended up as the Fonz but either Mickey Dolenz or Michael Nesmith would have made a great Fonz!
msdemos NickPowers 29 months ago

Wow......REALLY glad to hear you say that Micky Dolenz is a nice person......I've read a few comments about him online that said he can be somewhat of a putz, but as disappointing as that was to hear, never knew if there was any truth to it.

Nice to know that someone who has ACTUALLY met, and talked to him, thinks just the opposite of him !!

cmurf1960 33 months ago
The only one of these that was plausible to me was Harold Gould as Howard Cunningham. But that is only because I was able to find that "Love, American Style" episode on YouTube and he was good as the dad. But yeah, he's played a lot of people's dads.

Robby Benson - did he audition for Richie for the "Love. American Style" role, or later when they decided to spin it off into "Happy Days"? If they tried to get him AFTER "Love, American Style, WHY? Ron Howard already played the role, and then he did the movie "American Graffiti", which was a huge hit, and his character was very similar to that of Richie Cunningham. So this should have been a no-brainer.

No way could any Monkee play the Fonz. Before Happy Days, Henry Winkler had a role as a greaser in a movie called "The Lords of Flatbush", which also starred a young Sylvester Stallone. He also played a rather dweebie guy on "Mary Tyler Moore", I think he was Rhoda's boyfriend, but I'm not 100% sure. But the Fonz ended up being one of those characters who was never meant to be a lead, but became one, and it was because of Henry Winkler.

Henry Winkler was also supposedly the first choice to play Danny Zuko in the "Grease" movie. he turned it down because he didn't want to be typecast as a greaser. So the part went to another very popular TV star at the time, John Travolta, who became famous for playing Vinnie Barbarino on "Welcome Back, Kotter".

If Richard Lewis had been cast as MKork on "Happy Days", I can guarantee that there never would have been "Mork & Mindy". "Mork & Mindy" came about because of Robin Williams. People loved this guy and wanted more. Sadly, he left this world way too soon. Nanu, nanu.
SashaPayneDiaz 48 months ago
"Circus Boy" as "The Fonz"?......I don't think so......and Nesmith would have been even worse.
RedjacArbez SashaPayneDiaz 34 months ago
do not bash Circus Boy....He played a mean axe on BMW.
therockrelic 48 months ago
Harold Gould was fantastic and could absorb just about any role, from a German general in "Hogan's Heroes" to Rose Nylund's boyfriend in 'The Golden Girls". But only one man could have played Richie's dad on "Happy Days" with the degree of believability that he had - and that was Tom Bosley!
morefaves therockrelic 44 months ago
David Doyle could have played Howard Cunningham, since he was such a Tom Bosley look alike, his character on Charlie's Angels was named after him.
RedjacArbez morefaves 34 months ago
That was a good I never thought of.....Kind of like Crosby/Astaire, Hudson/Grant Hoffman/Pacino......they are interchangeable.
KirwoodDerby 48 months ago
Harold Gould would have been good but not as good as as Tom.
Lacey 48 months ago
Harold Gould was EVERYONE's father at one time or another.
Wiseguy 48 months ago
#5: "the Neher" And Richie was played by "the Howard" and Fonzie was played by "the Winkler."
Lacey Wiseguy 48 months ago
I did not get that one either.
I hope it was a typo, I find errors in MeTV articles all the time. :)
Wiseguy 16 months ago
This comment has been removed.
Wiseguy 48 months ago
Heard the Dennis Weaver story before. Still don't see how he would have been considered for the role or how he would have accepted the part since McCloud ran from 1970-77. Never heard that Weaver was dissatisfied with McCloud or would have left it for any reason especially for an unproven sitcom.
Tim Wiseguy 43 months ago
McCloud wasn't a weekly series. He could have easily done both.
GeoRubik 48 months ago
Robbie Benson as Richie. The show would have died in the first season.
F5Twitster 48 months ago
"7. Robbie Benson as Richie..."

It's ROBBY Benson. Do your homework.
RedjacArbez F5Twitster 34 months ago
actually it is Robin David Segal...Do your homework before you tell anyone else to do theirs.
bugalito RedjacArbez 31 months ago
What was that noise? Did someone just drop a microphone?
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?