‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ron Howard at First Wouldn’t Watch Himself on the Series

Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor and Ron Howard as his son Opie walking to the fishing hole on 'The Andy Griffith Show'
Andy Griffith and Ron Howard on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

When Ron Howard started out on The Andy Griffith Show, he was all of 6 years old. He quickly stole every scene in which he appeared and remained in the role of Opie Taylor for the series’ entire eight seasons.

Here’s why Howard said that, at the start of the show, he wouldn’t watch it.

Howard started on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ at 6 years of age

When the series debuted on CBS in 1960, Ron Howard was only 6 years old, and wasn’t able to read.

Howard couldn’t memorize his lines by reading them aloud. It was his father who at first, “taught me my lines. I couldn’t read,” he told the Television Academy Foundation in 2006.

His father, Rance Howard, who was also an actor, would “teach me the dialogue. The great thing he did was he was teaching me good, solid fundamentals about acting. My dad was teaching me to act.”

Ron Howard, left, with Mary Anne Durkin in 'The Andy Griffith Show' episode 'Opie's Girlfriend', 1966
Ron Howard, left, with Mary Anne Durkin in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ episode ‘Opie’s Girlfriend’, 1966 | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Rance also played another important part on The Andy Griffith Show. He pointed out to Griffith that the scripts at first seemed to have Opie speaking disrespectfully to his father. Instead, Rance said, why not have Opie communicate with his father without sass?

“Early on, they wrote Opie a little differently,” Howard said. “More like the typical sitcom kids who were always kind of the wise-ass comebacks. Later I heard that my dad actually was talking to Andy about it.”

The Cinderella Man director added, “My dad apparently said [to Andy Griffith], ‘What would happen if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad? As opposed to sitcom kids who are always kind of making the dad look bad.’ Andy really took to that and that’s how they began to write that.”

Howard’s parents didn’t pressure him to be an actor

RELATED: ‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Why Andy Griffith Ended Up Leaving His Own Show

The filmmaker in his conversation recalled that his parents spoke to him straightforwardly when he was offered the role of Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. They assured him, he said, that he didn’t have to agree to the commitment of the series.

As Howard explained, they wanted to be sure their son knew that acting was purely his choice. They also made clear, however, that once he signed on to a series, he had to see it through.

“My parents always said, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ They were every so often sitting me down and saying, ‘If you don’t want to act on the show, you really don’t have to. You’re not doing it for us.’ I remember pretty adult dialogue about it,” the Splash director said.

He couldn’t watch the show at first

Asked whether he watched the show, Howard quickly said that “I did, yeah,” then corrected himself.

“The first year or two, I don’t quite remember what time it came on,” Howard said. “I think it might have come on at 9 o’clock, but I’m not sure. It was past my bedtime, and it wasn’t until I was older that I was allowed to stay up and watch it. Then I’d watch it every week.”

He added that “once in a while, I’d be critical of something. Mostly I liked it; mostly I enjoyed it. It wasn’t until later that I began being critical of my own work.”