He starred in his self-titled series for nearly eight years. However, Andy Griffith admitted that he actually couldn’t stand watching the series’ first season.
According to MeTV, Andy Griffith reportedly told the show’s producer, Aaron Ruben, that he couldn’t watch himself in the early episodes of the hit series. The late actor notably claimed that his performance in the episodes was “too forced,” and he couldn’t actually stand watching it.
Richard Kelly also shared in his 1981 book The Andy Griffith Show, “In a few of the early shows, [Don] Knotts attempted to get his speech a Southern flavor by occasionally say ‘right cheer’ for ‘right here.’ But he sounds dropped that because it sounded fake. Andy, too, abandons his exaggerated Southern accent for his natural speech by the end of the second year of the series.”
Don Knotts further discussed his and Andy Griffith’s southern accents during an interview with The Television Academy Foundation. “Andy, in the beginning, I think laid on his Southern dialect more than he really had. But he pulled that way back as he went on. Originally, I think he was doing the character he did in No Time For Sergeants.”
However, Knotts noted that as the series went on Andy Griffith decided to pull his character back. “So that’s what he did; he pulled the character way down. And just played it as a normal guy. He has a natural Southern accent, anyway. He didn’t have to put any more on.”
Andy Griffith on the Show’s Early Episodes
Also during an interview with the Archive of American Television, Andy Griffith reflected on the early days of his self-titled show. He admitted that prior to the first day of filming ending, he thought about quitting. “That day, I didn’t have much to say at all. Artie Stander, Danny Thomas, and Sheldon Leonard yelled at one another all day. I asked Sheldon if I could talk to him at the end of the day and he walked me to the gate. I said, ‘If this is what the show, I don’t think I can handle it.’”
However, Leonard quickly started doing damage control on the situation. He ended up reassuring Andy Griffith that the star of the show actually dictates the attitude on the set. Also, he and Thomas were yelling at each other because that’s how Thomas communicated.
Andy Griffith then spoke about Knotts joining the cast. “The second episode was called Manhunt. And I knew by the aside that Down as a comic and I should play straight for him. That made all the difference.”
Andy Griffith went on to add that after Knotts joined the cast, he discovered his love for playing a straight man to comic relief characters.