The Sweet Way Henry Winkler Responded To Fan Mail In The '70s

06/22/2015 09:56 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

For "Happy Days" fans, Henry Winkler will always and forever be remembered as "The Fonz." For a full decade, Winkler portrayed the iconic leather-jacket-wearing Arthur Fonzarelli, and even now, 40 years later, he's still recognized as the breakout star of the series. But what many don't know is that Winkler was originally cast as only a recurring character, tapped to appear in just seven of 12 episodes.

As he tells "Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra" in the above video, this lighter filming schedule left Winkler with extra time on his hands. "I would sit at home, because I only had one day of work sometimes," he says.

On those off days, the 69-year-old actor says he still wanted to be productive. So, he asked the studio to start delivering his fan mail directly to his West Hollywood apartment.

"I read all of the fan mail," Winkler tells Oprah. "There were some letters that were just incredibly heartfelt, from every age."

Those letters moved him so much that Winkler actually took a moment to personally respond to his loyal fans.

"I would call those people if they left their phone number," he says. "And then I would spend 20 minutes going, 'No, no, no, it's really me!'"

After a while, Winkler realized that their disbelief coupled with his inability to prove his identity over the phone made it difficult to really connect with his fans.

"I realized it's not a winning proposition, so I stopped calling," he says. "But [when] I did call, I said, 'I just want to say I loved your letter.'"

Later in the interview, Winkler tells the unknown story behind the infamous "jump the shark" scene that is still referenced in pop culture today.

"Oprah: Where Are They Now -- Extra" is a digital series based on the OWN show "Oprah: Where Are They Now?"

Henry Winkler Then & Now
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