‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Andy Griffith Reportedly Misinterpreted Don Knott’s Request To Own the Show

The Andy Griffith Show ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968. Andy Griffith starred in the show as Andy Taylor, a widowed sheriff, and Don Knotts played his deputy Barney Fife.

Knotts won multiple Emmy Awards for his role as Barney, but he ended up leaving the show after the fifth season. Knotts leaving the show was largely the result of a miscommunication between him and Griffith.

Don Knotts and Andy Griffith
Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife and Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor | CBS Photo Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Don Knotts left ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

For fans of The Andy Griffith Show, it is largely known that Knotts left the show in order to pursue a movie career. Because of his love for the show and the character, Knotts appeared as a guest actor on three episodes after he officially left.

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Knotts gave more insight into his decision to leave the show.

“I left because Andy had said he would never do the show longer than five years,” said Knotts. “And I had a five-year contract and during the fifth season I thought ‘Geez, I better start looking around for more work.'”

Knotts continued, “I wound up getting an offer from Universal to do movies, and do my own pictures. And then Andy suddenly said he was going to stay on another two or three years.”

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It was difficult for him to leave the show

While Knotts had not yet signed with Universal, he had given his word that he would take the movie deal. By the time Griffith told him The Andy Griffith Show would continue for a few more years, Knotts was also already in the headspace of moving forward with Universal.

“I had focused all my attention in that direction, and I don’t know I just went ahead,” Knotts told the Television Academy Foundation.

Still, it was not an easy decision for Knotts to leave The Andy Griffith Show.

“It was a tough time for me because I enjoyed The Andy Griffith Show so much that I hated to leave,” he said.

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Don Knotts wanted to own part of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

For many years, Knotts leaving The Andy Griffith Show to pursue a movie career was the only explanation fans knew. After Knotts died in 2006, more behind-the-scenes details about Knotts’ departure from the show came out.

According to the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, Griffith revealed a private meeting he had with Knotts to Knotts’ manager following the comedic actor’s death. Midway through the fifth season, Knotts asked Griffith for partial ownership of The Andy Griffith Show.

At the time of Knotts’ request, Griffith and his manager owned half of the show, while Knotts was simply an employee on the TV series. According to the book, Griffith and Knotts simply had a conversation filled with miscommunication and without actually sitting down to negotiate with other parties present.

Because of this, the conversation did not go anywhere. Griffith assumed that Knotts wanted half of what he owned, so he turned his friend’s request down. Griffith interpreted it that Knotts wanted at least a quarter ownership stake in The Andy Griffith Show when Knotts most likely would have accepted less.

Due to this misinterpretation and Griffith’s refusal to give Knotts an ownership stake, Knotts elected to pursue his movie deal with Universal.