‘Matlock’: Story Behind Betty Lynn’s Final Appearance on the Show

by Allison Hambrick

Matlock and The Andy Griffith Show shared quite a few actors over the former’s nine season run, including Betty Lynn. The “Thelma Lou” actress was specifically asked by Griffith to make an appearance on the show.

When casting Matlock, Griffith wanted a cast he could work well with. As a result, he drafted his former costar to play his secretary. He admired her comedic abilities, and the producers agreed. After Lynn was brought on, Griffith wrote some trial scenes for her. According to Lynn, they were very funny.

In fact, the actress feared the writing would be funnier than her acting. Her concern was that she would be cut from the pilot before it ever went to air. While she made the cut for the first episode, her stint on the show wouldn’t last.

Unfortunately, Lynn enjoyed being on Matlock, but she felt her lines were too few and far between. She reached out to Griffith because of their past friendship. However, she says the actor did nothing to address her concerns.

“They let me go as soon as they could,” Lynn said. “I was upset with him because he wouldn’t listen.”

Her last Matlock appearance was in an episode called “Santa Claus.” In the episode, Matlock had to defend a Santa Claus on trial for killing a landlord who was evicting his tenants during the holiday season. Because Griffith shut her down, their friendship suffered.

According to Lynn, the former Andy Griffith Show costars didn’t speak for twenty years. However, prior to Griffith’s death in 2012, the two had forgiven each other. The Matlock star called Lynn out of the blue for acting advice, and that reopened the lines of communication.

Matlock Casts Andy Griffith Stars

Additionally, Lynn was not the only actor to make the leap from The Andy Griffith Show to Matlock. A number of actors including Pat Hingle, Anita Corsaut, and of course, Don Knotts. In fact, producers had grown concerned that Griffith was bringing in too many influences from his previous show.

“Joel Steiger, who was taking over day-to-day business on Matlock, watched the creeping ‘Mayberry-ization’ with growing unease,” Daniel de Visé wrote in Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show. “Andy seemed intent on re-creating his greatest television success on Matlock, even if it imperiled the success of his comeback.”

Even so, Knotts became a semi-regular presence on the show. He played Les Calhoun, Matlock’s neighbor and client. According to Knotts’ daughter, Andy Griffith fought to get his friend on the show.

“Even when he was on Matlock, and my dad wasn’t working at the time, [Griffith] went to producers and said, ‘I want Don Knotts on the show,'” revealed Karen Knotts. “They said, ‘No, this is a dramatic show, there’s no part for a character comedian.’ He kept fighting and fighting, and then they put him on, but they didn’t want to pay him much. Andy went to the mat and fought with them on that. They gave him not really what he should have gotten, but at least a decent salary.”