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By the time actor Don Knotts made his debut appearance on The Andy Griffith Show in 1960, he had been making the rounds on late-night television shows, namely on The Steve Allen Show.

Once he was a regular on the Mayberry-set comedy, however, Knotts and the rest of the cast knew the comedy was a hit. Not much has been revealed about the cast behind the scenes over the years. Decades later, however, the Three’s Company star’s brother-in-law shared little-known stories about the show and details that might surprise fans.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts on the set of 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts on the set of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The actor’s brother-in-law is a biographer of Knotts’ and Griffith’s friendship and careers

Knotts, who died in 2006, took as his third wife actor Frances Yarborough. Her sister Sophie married journalist Daniel de Visé, who has worked at The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and three other newspapers in his almost 30-year career.

De Visé authored the 2015 biography Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show. As he told The Frederick News-Post about the framework around which the book came to be: “The time I spent with Don while he was alive gave me a good basic understanding of who he was and how his mind worked. I saw him at family gatherings; we vacationed together in Las Vegas and at Disney World.

“I asked him over and over about how he got started. I heard the story of the Nervous Man, how it came to him in a dream, several times. So some of Don’s narrative was already in my head.”

Don Knotts’ brother-in-law, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel de Visé, speaking about his book
Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show

What de Visé felt readers might be surprised to learn about the ‘Griffith Show’ cast

Taking the show’s fans behind the scenes, de Visé shared those details about the comedy that he felt fans might not be aware of.

“I think people might be fascinated by the deliberations between Andy and Don that ended with Don leaving the Griffith Show after five years,” he said. “Don offered to stay on the show, and Andy ultimately declined his offer, and the details of that negotiation are pretty gripping.”

As well he noted of Gomer Pyle star Jim Nabors: “I think some fans will be surprised to know that Jim Nabors’ sexual orientation was no secret to members of the cast and crew – Jim was ‘out,’ in a sense, although his manager and co-stars certainly respected his privacy and helped him protect it.”

Knotts became Barney Fife after seeing Griffith on television

Don Knotts was home watching television when he caught what turned out to be the pilot episode of The Andy Griffith Show, which aired on The Danny Thomas Show in 1960.


‘Three’s Company’: Andy Griffith Said Don Knotts ‘Was Awful’ in His Ralph Furley Role

De Visé wrote, “As Don beheld Andy on [television], ‘the wheels in my brain began to whirl,’” Don recalled. “The part of Sheriff Andy Taylor seemed perfect for Andy. A show like that would be honey to the sponsors, with all its homespun charm. And Don wondered if there might be a place for him in Mayberry.”

Griffith and Knotts had worked together in the Broadway production of No Time For Sergeants in 1955. Knotts immediately reached out to his old friend. “Listen, don’t you think Sheriff Andy Taylor ought to have a deputy?”

The rest, of course, is Mayberry history.