Ron Howard Said This ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Actor Wasn’t Like His Character

The Andy Griffith Show gave us some memorable characters, however, these characters weren’t always a reflection of the actors who played them. Ron Howard said one of the show’s actors wasn’t like his character at all. Here’s a look at how critics reacted to the character at the time.

Ron Howard and Laurie Henderson on the American Graffiti set
Ron Howard and Laurie Henderson | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Ron Howard said this was the only funny actor he worked with who didn’t have a neurosis

In 2006, Howard went on CNN’s Larry King Live. He discussed several cast members of The Andy Griffith Show with King. He mentioned how Don Knotts had plenty of admirers but Andy Griffith was his biggest fan. In addition, he said “And the two of them, of course, were an amazing comedy team and what they could generate was, you know, something historic.”

Howard — who worked with everyone from Steve Martin to Jim Carrey to Henry Winkler — compared Knotts to other comedic actors. “Well, I have such great memories of the show in general and Don was, you know, an amazing guy in that — and I’ve worked with a lot of very, very funny people over the years and they all have different styles but one remarkable thing about Don is that I wasn’t aware of any neurosis or anything, you know.” 

The Andy Griffith theme

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How Don Knotts compared to ‘The Andy Griffith Show”s Barney Fife

Afterward, Howard compared Knotts to his most famous character: Barney Fife. “I mean he wasn’t — he wasn’t like his character at all. Even as a kid, you know, I could see that he was a really great comic actor who knew how to create this character and knew how to be very funny but, you know, he wasn’t — he wasn’t Barney Fife. He was a very calm, very kind, very relaxed, very creative guy.”

How the world reacted to Barney Fife

Clearly, Knotts was playing someone very different from himself when he played Barney. So did his performance pay off? His performance certainly garnered acclaim in the 1960s. According to Emmys.com, Knotts was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1967. Each time Knotts was nominated for the award, he won it. 

A trailer for Pleasantville

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Knotts garnered acclaim for his role as Barney in the 1960s but did the character last? In 1998, director Gary Ross released a film called Pleasantville, a tribute to and critique of 1950s and 1960s sitcoms like The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It to Beaver. Ross cast Knotts in the role of a mysterious television repairman who helps the film’s main characters get trapped in the world of a classic sitcom. Ross said he wanted Knotts in the role because he was an iconic figure from the world of classic television. The fact that Ross wanted Knotts in the role shows Barney resonated with people — even if Barney wasn’t much like Knotts.