The Andy Griffith Show is widely considered to be one of the greatest shows to have emerged from the golden age of television. The series, which was set in the fictional small town of Mayberry, ran on television for eight years and led to several popular spinoffs as well as a couple of made-for-television movies.
Still, the show’s greatest legacy is the characters that the talented cast helped to create — with Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith, at the forefront. While Griffith is now a beloved television icon, there was a time when the actor wasn’t fully on board with the concept of The Andy Griffith Show.
How did Andy Griffith get started in the entertainment business?
Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, in 1926. As a child, Griffith was raised in poor circumstances, often living with relatives until his parents could afford to buy a home of their own.
While Griffith’s early years weren’t always easy, he developed a deep love of music and entertainment that would ultimately take him far in life. As a student, he participated in his school’s drama program, eventually revealing a talent for singing and storytelling.
Griffith went on to attend the University of North Carolina, where he continued to study music and drama. After he graduated, he pursued a career as a monologist, receiving early acclaim for his story What It Was, Was Football.
In 1955, Griffith received a starring role in the play No Time for Sergeants, a role that capitalized on Griffith’s ability to portray down-home, country characters. Over the next several years, Griffith’s star continued to rise, and by the late ’50s, he was a well-known character actor.
Andy Griffith reportedly didn’t like the concept of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ at first
In 1960, Griffith played an endearing county sheriff in an episode of the popular television series The Danny Thomas Show. He made such an impression that television executives reached out to the star to ask about potentially starring in his very own series, based loosely around that character. According to Closer Weekly, however, Griffith wasn’t so sure.
“Andy himself had been doing well on the big screen and the stage, and he had become curious about television. While performing in the play Destry Rides Again, he was approached by legendary TV producer Sheldon Leonard with the idea of what would become his own series,” the report stated. “He didn’t like the concept, but he did like Sheldon, so he said yes. Not hurting his decision-making is the fact that, ultimately, he would end up owning more than half the show.”
Andy Griffith created an enduring legacy
Ultimately, Griffith’s decision paid off in a big way. The Andy Griffith Show became wildly popular with viewers of all ages, and Sheriff Taylor, the character played by Griffith, became one of the most beloved television characters of all time.
He acted in The Andy Griffith Show for nearly eight years. Although some of his television projects immediately after he left the series floundered, he went on to further solidify his star status with a lead role in the ’80s legal drama Matlock.
Griffith passed away in 2012, but his influence, and the characters that he created, will continue to live on for decades to come.