Anson Williams is an American actor, singer, and director, best known for playing ‘Potsie,’ a key role in the series ‘Happy Days.’ Born into a Jewish family in Los Angeles, California, Anson wanted to be an athlete during his high-school years. He captained the school track team while he attended ‘Burbank High School.’ He eventually became interested in singing and took singing lessons after graduating high school. He began singing at local clubs and bars. He made his acting debut in the early 1970s, with small roles in series such as ‘Love, American Style’ and ‘The Paul Lynde Show.’ He got his acting breakthrough when he earned the role of ‘Potsie Weber’ in the series ‘Happy Days,’ in 1974. The sitcom became a huge critical and commercial success. However, to this day, it remains Anson’s only significant acting project. He did not trust his acting instincts enough and turned to direction in the mid-1980s. As a director, he has primarily worked in TV projects. He has directed a few TV films such as ‘Dream Date’ and ‘Little White Lies.’ He has also directed a few episodes of series such as ‘Melrose Place,’ ‘Fudge,’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager.’
Childhood & Early Life
Anson Williams was born Anson William Heimlich, on September 25, 1949, in Los Angeles, California, to Haskell Heimlich. His father later changed the family name to “Heimlick.”
Anson grew up in a traditional Jewish household with his parents and gained an early interest in athletics. Track was the sport of his choice, and he led his school team at ‘Burbank High School.’ He also developed an attraction toward performing arts and became highly interested in singing and acting. He also participated in many high-school theatrical productions.
Growing up amidst the glitz of show business in Los Angeles, he became heavily influenced by performers such as Gene Kelly and Al Jolson. Although he grew up in a lower-middle-class family and had no connections in the entertainment industry, he slowly nourished the idea of working in Hollywood someday.
He began working on his passion for singing when he graduated high school. At that time, he began taking singing lessons and bought sheet music. His intense desire to sing in front of a crowd had him strolling through many clubs and bars across Los Angeles. This led him to perform for free once he cleared the auditions.
He covered songs of famous artists. Gradually, he got better and heard about ‘Summer Stock.’ Despite having an average voice, he was hired due to his sense of humor. Gaining confidence through his experience, he also began auditioning for acting roles.
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He made his acting debut in 1971, playing a guest role in an episode of the legal drama ‘Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law,’ titled ‘Eulogy for a Wide Receiver.’
The following year, he appeared as ‘Potsie Weber’ in a small segment of the comedy anthology series ‘Love, American Style,’ titled ‘Love and the Happy Days.’ His performance in the series earned huge general appreciation, and the episode later served as the pilot of ‘Happy Days.’
In 1972, he appeared in an episode of the show ‘The Paul Lynde Show.’ The following year, he appeared in ‘Bridget Loves Bernie.’
In 1974, Anson received a huge break that established him as a national icon overnight. He was signed to play ‘Potsie Weber’ in the sitcom titled ‘Happy Days.’ Anson played his role with panache and became a household name in the country. His on-screen chemistry with superstar Ron Howard became a key attraction of the sitcom.
The sitcom was best known for influencing the TV shows of its time. It became a trendsetter, apart from earning huge critical and commercial success. The sitcom also turned out to be one of the longest-running American series of its time, as it ran for 11 seasons, covering 255 episodes. Anson attained huge popularity and critical acclaim for his performance in the sitcom. He received a nomination for the ‘Golden Globe’ award for the ‘Best Supporting Actor.’
The sitcom ruled American TV for almost 11 straight years, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Meanwhile, Anson appeared in fewer projects, making guest appearances in series such as ‘The Love Boat’ and ‘Fantasy Island.’ He also appeared in the supporting role of ‘Nick Bellows’ in the TV film ‘I Married a Centerfold.’
However, around that time, he seriously doubted his acting skills and only accepted comedy roles. He also decided that he wanted to direct. Hence, he began his directing career in the mid-1980s, directing single episodes of series such as ‘ABC Afterschool Special,’ ‘WonderWorks,’ and ‘L.A. Law.’
In 1989, he directed the TV film ‘Your Mother Wears Combat Boots.’ The same year, he directed TV films such as ‘Dream Date’ and ‘Little White Lies.’
He mostly directed comedies, and while his performance in ‘Happy Days’ was still remembered, he continued to work as a successful producer/director. However, he reprised the role of ‘Potsie’ on a couple of occasions after that, such as two ‘Happy Days’ reunion specials and an episode of the series ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch,’ which he also directed.
In the mid-1990s, he directed many episodes of the series ‘Live Shot’ and ‘Fudge.’ He has also directed episodes of long-running dramas such as ‘Melrose Place,’ ‘Star Trek: Voyager,’ and ‘Beverly Hills, 90210.’
In the more recent years, he directed 31 episodes of the teen-drama series ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager.’
He began a chain of diners called ‘Big Al,’ which was closed after sometime. He also founded ‘Starmaker Products,’ which is running successfully to date.
He contributed to the soundtracks of ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Brothers and Sisters,’ and ‘Dolly.’ He has produced and written the TV movies ‘Skyward’ and ‘The Lone Star Kid’ and the series ‘ABC Afterschool Specials’ (one episode).
Family &Personal Life
Anson Williams married Lorrie Mahaffey in 1978, and the couple divorced in 1986. He then married Jackie Gerken in 1988, and the couple has been together ever since. Anson has five children from his two marriages.
In 2011, Anson and four of his ‘Happy Days’ co-stars filed a lawsuit, saying ‘CBS’ had not honored the contract of paying the actors 5 percent from the sale of merchandise related to the show. The issue was settled with Anson and the other accusers receiving $65,000 from ‘CBS.’