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Old 03-02-2014, 01:27 AM   #1
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Cool Showbiz Analysis with Happy Days' Anson Williams

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When Anson Williams was cast as loyal friend Potsie Weber in the hit ABC series Happy Days (1974-1984), he had no clue that the decade-long role and associated opportunities would help him prepare for a long and successful career in a business that often forgets young actors as they age. Anson Williams recently joined me for my podcast Whine At 9 to share memories of Happy Days and his transition into a career as a director, producer, and entrepreneur.

Five minutes into a conversation with Anson Williams, it becomes clear that casting him as Potsie Weber probably wasn’t a reach. Catching up with Williams is like visiting with a wonderful friend, so it’s no surprise that he is famous for being Happy Days’ favorite BFF. Even before he was hanging out with Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), Anson Williams tended to land affable roles. “I started getting into the niche of playing the concerned boyfriend on these different shows. Literally I would be in every scene, but it would be like a line a page,” chuckles Williams. “So I was like the best reactor. The girl’s talking, the father’s talking, the mother’s talking, and I’m nodding. And then finally it comes to my turn—‘I understand.’ And then it goes back to another couple of pages of nodding. I mean it was a great career, but I basically was a concerned boyfriend.”

Happy Days was a perfect fit for Williams who bonded with fellow cast members and, like many, was mentored by the show’s creator, Garry Marshall. With a young cast and nearly 60 million viewers each week, Happy Days could have been a hotbed for teen idol disasters, but Marshall worked hard to keep the cast grounded. Says Williams, “He was almost like a futurist. He’d say ‘What you have now is not going to be here in ten years.’ He said,‘You’re in it, don’t be of it.’ Which is a big lesson in life.”

As Williams notes, “Everybody’s hot and then everybody’s not hot at a certain time.” It was during Happy Days that the young actor began sampling other careers in show business. When he later turned to directing, he had the chops for it thanks to Marshall.

“I was ready for it, because Garry made possible, on the Paramount lot, for me to follow John Schlesinger when he was directing Day of the Locust. I was able to follow (Roman) Polanski when he was doing Chinatown on the Paramount lot. I was able to watch every day they were in town filming Grease. I mean, that’s how I learned directing. I was right by these great directors. I learned the craft by being there.”

Williams’ prolific directing career has included plenty of high profile and successful television shows. From Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210 to Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Lizzie McGuire, he now finds himself in the role of mentor. Most recently, as the director of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Williams issued plenty of important reminders to the young actors. “Learn. Go to the editing rooms. Ask me questions. Follow me around directing. Learn everything you can about this business. The odds of you acting in ten years are not good. Learn something else. You have an opportunity here. Don’t let it go by.”

And Anson Williams clearly follows his own advice. He seems to find opportunities everywhere and is quick to act on them. Marshall once labeled him an “entrepreneur” and Williams has lived up to the label ever since. “I created a chain of restaurants while I was on the show. And one thing led to another, and then I was directing Melrose Place and I met my business partner [JoAnna Connell] on there because she was creating all the skincare for the industry that nobody knew about. And we created StarMaker Products: the same products you [see] on the most famous faces in the world every day, now you can have.” Now with over 14 years in business and over 40 products later, StarMaker’s beauty products are used on shows including Grey’s Anatomy and Hot in Cleveland.

When it comes to Happy Days, Anson Williams continues to embrace the iconic series that made him a household name. “I’m so appreciative,” notes the director. He remains close with the cast and admits that he, Ron Howard, and Don Most (Ralph Malph) are “like brothers.” Says Williams, “I don’t see Ron as much because he lives back East, but when he’s out here we get together. Don Most I see a lot because he lives very close to me.” Williams continues to be in touch with Henry Winkler (Fonzie) and Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham).

One can’t help but wonder if the real relationships, wisdom, and emotional connections forged during Happy Days have contributed to its continued popularity even today. Says Williams, “People love Happy Days because they are connecting to those characters. They’re connecting to the stories. It’s affecting them emotionally. There’s an ‘it’ factor there that will be forever, and forever will make people feel better.” Maybe if everyone had a good friend like Potsie Weber or Anson Williams there would be many more happy days.
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Old 03-02-2014, 05:23 PM   #2
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Thank you very much for this very interesting read!
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