Do you remember Chuck? Richie and Joanie’s older brother?
About two weeks ago, one of my favorite social media meetings occurred. It began after realizing that my children had never seen “Happy Days” and I ordered it on Netflix right away.
I snapped a photo of “Chuck,” the oldest Cunningham after the first season, while we were watching. Then I posted the Facebook photo:
“Remember Chuck, Richie and Joanie’s older brother?” I questioned in the photo caption.
Within moments, two of my Facebook friends, sisters Micaela and Eilis O’Herlihy – who are actually real-life friends, too – responded that “Chuck” was their uncle, an actor named Gavan O’Herlihy.
All I could think in the moment was “I must interview the Lost Cunningham immediately.”
Now there was actually 3 Chucks. Charles “Chuck” Cunningham was played by Gavin O’Herlihy and then Randolph Roberts but in the pilot he was played by Ric Carrott.
Randolph Roberts, shown below in a 1970s screenshot, appeared in two episodes as Chuck Cunningham on “Happy Days” in Season 2, replacing Gavan O’Herlihy in the role.
Gavin O’Herlihy was more known for the role of Chuck than anyone else since he starred in the most episodes.
I got his email address and asked if he was interested in interviewing with me. Then I began to investigate O’Herlihy and realized how insignificant his role on “Happy Days” was compared to the remainder of his career, although it was noteworthy.
O’Herlihy had been born in Dublin in 1954. He was a talented tennis player and eventually became the champion of Irish national tennis. He began to act as he attended Trinity College. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1973 and took on the role of “Chuck.” As Chuck, O’Herlihy played Richie and Joanie’s (Erin Moran’s) basketball jock. O’Herlihy, though cast as his older brother, is a few months younger than Howard.
O’Herlihy’s protagonist had few talking components and “Chuck” was written out of the script by going to university in the center of the first season–which aired in 1974. He never came back.
“I hung around for the first half-season, then asked out of the contract. It wasn’t my cup of tea. It raised some eyebrows, but I’m glad I did,” O’Herlihy wrote in an email interview.
In 1980, O’Herlihy moved to England where he was cast in a show called “We’ll Meet Again.” The show was a smash hit, and O’Herlihy was able to purchase a house boat and moved onto the Thames. He later bought and lived in a lighthouse in Wales “with Dublin a glow on the horizon.”
Finally, he settled down in the rural area in The Cotswolds, a range of small hills in England, where he has lived for over 30 years. He has a wife and two kids.
“I’m tucked in away from the business, though occasionally something drops from the ether. I’m certainly not on the hunt,” he says.
O’Herlihy has over 30 screen credits – including “Death Wish 3,” “Never Say Never Again,” “Superman III” and “Tales From The Crypt” – and quite a few of his roles are villains.
In 1988, Howard cast him in a minor role in the fantasy feature “Willow.” He also was featured in the pilot episode of “Star Trek: Voyager.”
O’Herlihy is also known in England as playing Captain Leroy in “Sharpe’s Eagle” where he said his most famous line that’s frequently cited by fans: “Boys, let’s load up and do some shootin’.”
I asked O’Herlihy more questions about his time on “Happy Days,” including what it was like to work with Winkler. O’Herlihy says he doesn’t really think about his time on the show, but took the time in the interview to reminisce.
“It was a warm L.A. Saturday night at Paramount. I was there to audition, and sitting in a room with maybe eight others. One of the eight began talking about how he had only been acting a month and here he was, all the way from Texas. Hallelujah. It was ticking a few of us off.
“I caught the eye of one of the others who was called into the audition. Then I stepped into the hallway to get away from the Texan, when another actor had finished his audition and as he passed me in the hall, he grabbed me by the shirt and said, ‘get this job. Don’t let that guy it.’ I had to laugh. It was Winkler. A fond memory. Probably the only one from long ago.”