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Four decades after Fonzie, Henry Winkler wins his first Emmy for ‘Barry’

Henry Winkler made it to the stage to collect the first Primetime Emmy of his celebrated career.

After kissing his wife of 40 years, Stacey, and hugging Bill Hader and Alec Berg — the men who hired him for “Barry” — Henry Winkler made it to the stage to collect the first Primetime Emmy of his celebrated career.

“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” he said, taking in the moment. “I only have 37 seconds. I wrote this 43 years ago. “

Winkler, 72, earned his first Emmy nomination in 1976 (his onstage math was off a year) for his iconic turn as “the Fonz” on ABC’s hit “Happy Days.” He was nominated twice again for the series and picked up a pair of nods in 2000 for guest actor spots.

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FULL COVERAGE: Live updates | Winners list | Show highlights

He finally won for his hilarious, heartfelt turn as the narcissistic acting teacher on the dark comedy “Barry,” the first-year HBO series that also earned Hader a lead comedy actor Emmy.

Accepting the trophy, Winkler quoted prominent entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham: “If you stay at the table long enough, the chips come to you, and tonight I got to clear the table.”

Backstage, Winkler was still beaming.

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“It feels wonderful,” he said, joking that he was “wearing rubber pants in anticipation of the shock of winning tonight.”

“And I used a little powder, but I had control,” he continued, smiling. “I think I had the longest drought between nominations than anyone else in the academy.”

Winkler’s category was competitive. The other nominees were three-time Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Kenan Thompson and Alec Baldwin (“Saturday Night Live”), Brian Tyree Henry (“Atlanta”), previous winner Louie Anderson (“Baskets”) and Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”).

Winkler recently had prominent roles on celebrated comedies such as “Arrested Development” and “Parks and Recreation.” He recognized immediately that the role on “Barry” was something special.

“When I was 27, I got the Fonz,” Winkler told The Times in an interview earlier this year. “And because I changed my voice, I changed my body, it was like a key that unlocked my imagination. And at that moment, after all of my training, I realized that I really am just a character actor. I am not a leading man. But I knew, without the change of voice, without the detail of the Fonz, I wasn’t the actor I wanted to be in my mind or in my imagination.”

“So that was 27,” he continued. “And now I’m 72, so I’ve flipped the numbers, and I am closer to the actor that I thought about being when I was 27. Some people can do it right away: Ryan Gosling, Jack Nicholson, there is no distance — Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright. There is no difference between the character and their soul. There’s no space. You can’t even slide a piece of paper between the two. And I dreamed of that, but I couldn’t accomplish that.

“And maybe I’m just getting there now.”

glenn.whipp@latimes.com

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