‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why Andy Griffith Almost Didn’t Do the Show

When you think of classic TV shows, The Andy Griffith Show might be top of mind. Although the series gave Andy Griffith’s career a boost, he almost didn’t join the cast.  

Andy Griffith’s rise to fame

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Griffith made his television debut in a 1955 tele-play titled No Time for Sergeants. In 1957, he appeared in the film A Face in the Crowd. Griffith starred in the film version of No Time for Sergeants in 1958. That same year, he appeared in the movie Onionhead.

Griffith starred in The Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1968. The series led to spinoffs, including Mayberry R.F.D. and The New Andy Griffith Show. In 2003, the cast reunited for a special titled Back to Mayberry. Griffith is also known for his appearances in Matlock, Salvage 1, From Here to Eternity, and Centennial.

Why Andy Griffith almost didn’t do ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

During an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Griffith spoke about his time on The Andy Griffith Show. He said he almost didn’t sign on to do the series. He wasn’t pleased with how the producers and cast spoke with each other on the set. According to him, there was too much yelling, and he wanted a peaceful set.

I remember the first day. [Producer] Sheldon [Leonard] was a very bright, astute man. The first day, they shot with three cameras. And the first day was always spent on the script. That day, I didn’t have much to say at all.

Artie Standard, Danny Thomas, and Sheldon Leonard yelled at each other all day. And I asked Sheldon if I could talk to him at the end of the day. And I said, ‘If this is what television is, I don’t think I can handle it.’ And he said, ‘Andy, the star dictates what the attitude will be on the set. He said, ‘Danny likes to yell, so we all yell. If you don’t want to yell, nobody will yell. That’s the way it was.

Andy Griffith, Television Academy Foundation

Another thing Andy Griffith didn’t like about ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Andy Griffith | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Yelling on the set wasn’t the only problem Griffith had with the show. Another thing Griffith didn’t like about The Andy Griffith Show was that his character, Andy Taylor, initially didn’t have someone he could freely exchange jokes with. Andy needed someone for comic relief. Griffith didn’t like that his character was the main focus of the show at first. 

“That’s what I didn’t like about the show,” Griffith told the Television Academy Foundation. “They had me as sheriff, justice of the peace, editor of the paper, and I’d tell little funny stories about people around town. That would have lasted maybe two weeks. I didn’t like that about the concept.”

Andy Griffith says adding Don Knots changed the show significantly 

Griffith said The Andy Griffith Show improved after Don Knotts came aboard. He was happy to have Knotts and he believed the actor made the show a hit. Griffith was able to play the “straight man” and Knotts was the one who made all the jokes. “That’s what made the show a hit; it was Don,” said Griffith during his Television Academy Foundation interview.

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