Donny Most

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

Donny Most - Interview by Dennis Morgillo
Donny Most is a man of many talents. Best known for his classic role as Ralph Malph on the legendary sitcom ‘Happy Days’, Donny has had a long illustrious career. Donny is an Actor, Director, Producer, and world class Singer, who currently has a Christmas Album out and will be releasing a Big Band Album in February 2017.   

Madhouse Magazine: Tell us about your childhood?​
Donny Most: I grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. I was a big Yankees fan. I have an older sister Randy, and we lived in an apartment on Ocean Avenue. I attended Erasmus Hall HS - Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond and a lot of well known people went there. 
When I was 13, I would take the subway into Manhattan for singing and acting lessons. 
I loved the Standards, I was in a professional singing group that would perform these songs in the Catskill Mountains. Then I decided to pursue acting more seriously. 

Madhouse: This was the late 1960’s, it was very unusual for a kid to enjoy Jazz Standards and the American songbook type of music. ​
Donny: Yes I loved all of the popular music of the time, but the Standards were in my blood. That type of music was considered our parents music. I was open to all types of music as a listener, but as a singer, the Standards were in my blood, my DNA. 

Madhouse: You were very funny as Ralph Malph on Happy Days. You had great comedic timing and instincts. Who were your influences, what comedians did you enjoy as a kid ?
Donny: I used to love watching Abbott & Costello. W.C Fields, I would watch his movies all the time. Jack Benny, the Marx Brothers, Burns & Allen. 

Madhouse: Originally you were up for the role of Potsie on Happy Days?​
Donny: Yes I auditioned for Potsie, I didnt get that role, but some of the executives loved my screen test, Michael Eisner said they should put me in the pilot. They gave me a small part of Ralph Malph and they expanded the part for me. 

Madhouse: Happy Days was one of the best and most successful TV shows of all time. Do you think the chemistry of the actors played a big role in the shows success?
Donny: Yes I think the chemistry was a huge factor in the success of the show. I knew from the first few days, you could just feel it. The casting was great and very fortuitous, it worked on every level. We all really respected each other very much, and took the work seriously. We weren’t just goofing around. It was talented people working hard to make it look easy. I knew there was something. I remember calling my parents saying “I have a really good feeling about this.”

Madhouse: How did you stay grounded in a crazy business? A young, single, successful guy in Hollywood, there must have been crazy temptations. How did you Not go off the rails? 
Donny: My family. I had a very strong family background and support system. It was very difficult though. I always said that in acting class they don’t teach you how to deal with the fame and fortune. I owe a lot to my wife. I married actress Morgan Hart, who I met on the set of Happy Days, and that helped keep me grounded. We have 2 beautiful daughters, and that all kept me sane and grounded. 

Madhouse: You and Morgan have been married for 30 some odd years. That is a miracle in Hollywood.​
Donny: Yes it will be 35 years in February, we are definitely in the minority with that kind of longevity. I feel very lucky to have found an incredible woman like Morgan. She amazes me more every day. 

Madhouse: Gary Marshall and Jerry Paris, What impact did they have on you?
Donny: They had a huge influence on me. Jerry Paris was a comedic genius, a wonderful director and an incredible guy. He became a mentor to me, we hit if off and he loved the things I would come up with. He took me under his wing and I owe a lot to Jerry. The first 2 seasons Gary was still involved with the Odd Couple but starting with the 3rd Season, he became much more involved in our show and he was a great force and comedic genius. Having the 2 of them as your bosses was an incredible opportunity and we all learned a lot from them. 

Madhouse: You are a great singer, How did Anson Williams become the Happy Days lead singer?​
Donny: In his book ‘Singing to a Bulldog’, Anson describes how he convinced Gary that there should be a band on the show, and he should be the singer. This worked out really well. I later went to Gary and lobbied for singing as well. Gary did not want to mess with the formula at this point, Anson was known as being the singer.

Madhouse: You released an album in 1976 ‘Donny Most’.​
Donny: Yes I did. I met a record producer, and because of the shows popularity, we got a record deal. They would not let me do the music that I wanted to do however. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, but they wanted me to do Pop songs, and I wanted to do ‘Rat Pack’ songs. They had me singing in a different range as well.

Madhouse: Tell us about your upcoming CD’s.​
Donny: I have a full CD coming out in February, ‘D Most, Mostly Swinging’ , we have an incredible 17 piece band, great arrangements, I am so happy with it. The first single, out now, is C’est Si Bon on iTunes and Amazon. I also did a Christmas EP ‘Donny Most Swinging Down the Chimney Tonight’ coming out December 9. Available now on digital.  

Madhouse: Are you going to be touring to support this?​
Donny: Yes I have a few shows lined up, and we are starting to book more and more. Check out DonnyMost.com and facebook ‘Don Most’, to see the latest news and dates. 

Madhouse: On the first season of Happy Days, Richie had an Older brother Chuck, who mysteriously disappeared, and was never spoken of again. Did they talk to the cast about him?
Donny: Yes the Producers came to us and explained, that the show is taking a different path, and Chuck didn’t really fit in. The actor didn’t see where Chuck’s character was growing either, so It was sort of a mutual agreement.

Madhouse: What do you have in the pipeline as far as acting and directing?
Donny: I starred in the psychological thriller ‘Follow’, and that is out now on iTunes, Amazon.  
I have a lot of Directing, Acting, Producing projects in Development. Stay Tuned.  

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