EXCLUSIVE: He's still got it.
Don Most, who played Ralph Malph on the ‘70s sitcom “Happy Days,” has been keeping busy over the years pursuing acting, directing and even playing music, his first love. Several months before the coronavirus pandemic impacted the globe, the now-67-year-old filmed “Lost Heart” where he plays small-town pastor Milo Williams.
“Lost Heart” focuses on Hannah Howard (Melissa Anschutz) a music star who returns to her Northern Michigan town for her estranged father’s funeral. Despite being burnt out, she must face her painful past in hopes of reaching a brighter future ahead.
Fox News: Many fans still remember you as Ralph from “Happy Days.” As an actor, does that ever get tiring for you?
Don Most: Not at all. In the heyday of the show, when we were the number one show in the country, there was no internet, no cable. You only had three networks. So we would have 50 million, 60, people watching us every Tuesday. So of course, as much fun as it might have been in the beginning, there was an adjustment period. And certainly, there was a difficult time adapting to that. But today, I appreciate it greatly.
I still get recognized sometimes and it’s completely manageable. And I appreciate it. I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever. The only problem I experienced, early on, was that I wanted people to be open to me as an actor, not just like that one character. And that was a difficult thing to do after the show. It’s a double-edged show to be part of an incredibly successful show because it does bring a high level of association with that one role. And I was never really like Ralph in real life. But still, you get typecast.
It was limiting at first, but I just kept plugging away and doing things. And I think because I’m older and there are more time and distance from the show, a lot of interesting roles and very good projects are opening up more and more. And I love that because that’s what I love about acting -- the chance to play all different kinds of roles, tackle all different types of genres, and experience different textures and tones. I’m really enjoying it and hoping to do that more.
Fox News: What was the biggest lesson you learned from Garry Marshall?
Most: Oh, there were so many. You know, I was constantly amazed at Garry’s comic genius. We had all of these great sessions where the writers, actors, producers and director would have a run-through and creative meetings about it. If there was a problem with a scene, Garry would have at least 10 different solutions for them.
It was very important to Garry that these stories were not just entertaining but also delivered a valuable message without ever being preachy or heavy about it. And that’s why the humor was so brilliant because it delivered the message in an entertaining way and the people would really feel good about it. You never felt like you were being lectured or being forced to learn a lesson. It was important to Garry for us to offer great characters in really fun situations where he could wrap it all up nicely with a family-oriented message. I appreciate that now more than ever.
Fox News: You must have many, but what’s one memory from your time working with Erin Moran that still sticks out to you?
Most: Oh boy -- the one thing that immediately popped into my head just now -- I’m having a vision of her when she was 13. She had this incredible light in her, even at such a young age. She had this vibrancy that illuminated within her and such a sweetness. And she was such a talent on set. Somehow she combined all of that together.
I saw her probably about a year before she passed. I remember those conversations about our time working together very well. You still felt that light in her. She hadn’t been diagnosed yet with anything. I found out about six months later that she was sick. But I truly didn’t get a sense that it was that far gone. So when we got the news that she passed I was shocked. But I still remember her -- we all do.
Fox News: What’s your relationship like with the cast today?
Most: It’s excellent. We’ve always been like a family. Sure not during the first couple of days of shooting *laughs* it did take a little bit of time to develop that kind of relationship, but it developed rather quickly. We became incredibly close and experienced so many things together as a family off-camera, as well as while filming.
Anson Williams, who played Potsie, we’re best friends and probably tighter now than we ever were. We talk to each other at least several times as well. I spoke to Henry [Winkler] recently and Marion [Ross] too. Ron [Howard] is probably the toughest to get a hold on, but we still stay very much in touch, probably more through email. And whenever he’s in town, we’ll catch up over lunch. It really does feel like a family.
Fox News: The “Happy Days” cast recently got together for a Democratic fundraiser in Wisconsin, where the sitcom takes place. However, Scott Baio was not a part of it. Did you miss seeing him at the reunion?
Most: I knew that he would not be a part of this because of the differences in political views. So it was not a question of whether he would be a part of it or not. That was a given. But you know, Scott and I, we played golf together. It’s been a while now, about a couple of years, but we’ve stayed in touch somewhat. But in the last year, I haven’t seen him.
I know he has expressed some things about the fundraiser and us getting together for it that was a little disappointing. It was disappointing to hear how strongly he felt. And how he was so critical and negative about us doing this. I felt it was way out of line. I really did. Because we are entitled to our opinions. And we were all as a group uniting to do something, just like he proposes his views. He was part of the show and people are aware of him because of that show. And he’s using that as a way to present his views. We’re entitled to do the same. And we were all united in the way we felt.
Fox News: What was it about “Lost Heart” that drew you in as an actor?
Most: I just loved the script. It's a really beautiful story with a great balance of comedy and drama. it’s really got a lot of heart and it’s a very different kind of role for me. I play a local pastor in this small town of Northwestern, Michigan that’s inhabited by all of these great, quirky characters. It all started with the script.
Fox News: What was it like playing a pastor?
Most: It was definitely a good experience. The script fed me a lot. And there have been people that I’ve come across in my life that I drew inspiration from. I also did a lot of meditation to get my mindset into a certain place that I felt was fitting for the role. It definitely got me closer to that place.
Fox News: How important has it been for you to offer family-friendly programming, especially now?
Most: Very. Obviously, “Happy Days” was definitely. Over the years, I’ve met lots of people from across the country and they all tell me how much they love “Happy Days” because they could watch it as a family together. And they miss that experience. There’s not enough of that. I saw how important it was to so many people. I don’t know if I appreciated that as much when I was young. I was just turning 20 when I started the show.
But Garry Marshall, the creator of the show, had a vision. He strongly focused on family values. So over the years, I have come to see how important that was. Now it’s a very fulfilling experience to offer that, especially now when the world is craving for that.
Fox News: What do you hope audiences will get from “Lost Heart"?
Most: Hope. There’s a strong message in this film about healing and forgiveness. I think during these times, we’re all in need of that. As individuals and as a nation, we need forgiveness and healing. I think people will feel that on many levels.
As for my performance, I’m hoping people will see a different side of me, one that is completely removed from “Happy Days.” It’s a very different character and I hope people will open up. There’s so much more I want to do and I haven’t done yet. So in some ways, it feels like the tip of the iceberg.
“Lost Heart” is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime.