Television icon Andy Griffith once reflected on how he channeled his beliefs into writing The Andy Griffith Show. In a 1969 appearance on Ralph Pearl’s Las Vegas, Griffith discussed how he created his character Sheriff Andy Taylor and the world of Mayberry.
“Part of it is myself and part of it we made up,” said Griffith. “Everything we said on the show, we believed. I’m talking about our office that put the shows together. I suppose, that’s what made it work. We never went for something we didn’t believe. It was a good eight years for me, I’ll tell you that.”
Additionally, Griffith talked about how he felt after his costar Don Knotts decided to pursue other career opportunities. The Andy Griffith Show was largely built around the onscreen chemistry between Griffith and Knotts, and the latter’s character Barney Fife was a fan favorite.
“When Don left after five years, I was very nervous,” explained the actor. “There was a lady from TV Guide [who] came in and she said ‘what’re you gonna do when Don leaves?’ I said ‘I don’t know what we’re gonna do when Don leaves’ and I got up and left. She wrote it just that way. Best article was ever written on me. She said ‘he got up and left and didn’t even say he appreciated it.'”
Aside from the series, Griffith and Knotts had a long history together.
The Real Life Friendship Behind The Andy Griffith Show
In the same interview, Andy Griffith also discussed what it was like doing a nightclub show alongside Knotts and Jerry Van Dyke. According to the actor, his role was more about hosting, and he left the comedy to the other two. Having worked with Knotts for years, he was well aware of his comedic capabilities.
The two first met in 1955 on a show called No Time for Sergeants, where they bonded for an interesting reason. Griffith was already aware of Knotts’ work as he had been a fan of his radio show. The two became fast friends, and “everything [they] did came out of [their] friendship.”
“He was very much in control of himself,” said Griffith. “Don was an extraordinarily bright man. He knew life, he knew how to get around. He had a great admiration of women and he wound up with a good one.”
In addition, the two remained close until Knotts’ death. Griffith described their last encounter: “His first name was Jess. He hated that name but he told me it once so I couldn’t help but call him Jesse. I said, ‘Jess, breathe. You got to make this, you got to pull through. Breathe.’ And, you know, I saw his chest heave. And I said, ‘That’s a boy, just keep breathing,’ and his shoulder moved.”