Andy Griffith Was Unsure About Taking on ‘Matlock’ Role at First

by Joe Rutland
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Andy Griffith played many characters on TV from Andy Taylor to Ben Matlock yet there was some hesitation about playing the lawyer. Griffith wore the same outfit in every Matlock episode and made his character into one that people could love. It took some time to get there but the actor did have some misgivings about taking on that role. At least that’s what we are led to believe.

Andy Griffith Had Some Hesitation Around Playing ‘Matlock’ On TV

In an interview with the legendary Nashville TV host Ralph Emery, Griffith gets asked by Emery about taking on the Matlock role for TV. He had some hesitation before taking on Andy Taylor and it appears that the same was true for old Ben. Griffith was quick to reply in the interview.

“That’s not quite true,” Griffith told Emery. “That’s not quite true. But Matlock – any character on television is going to – most characters on television, if you have any imagination, are going to evolve. So my character of Ben Matlock evolved as my mind enveloped that character. And I would rewrite scripts. I sent massive, massive notes. But nobody ever changed anything unless I changed it. So I did.”

Griffith Kept His Hand In The Writing Process Much Like He Did On Sitcom

One thing that did carry over from his time on The Andy Griffith Show is that he was part of the creative process. Griffith also had some complicated feelings about the role on Matlock. Griffith worked on making the sitcom’s scripts better all the time. Apparently, Griffith did the same thing with Matlock.

“I wrote on that show all the time,” Griffith said. “And in the fourth year, Dean Hargrove was no longer in charge, and a man named Joel Steiger, who had been on the show, became in charge. He became the producer, the executive producer. And that’s when the show really took off, was in the fourth year. And Joel told me, he said, ‘I’ll never keep any secrets from you, I won’t lie to you, and we’ll collaborate.’ And we have, all those years.” 

Matlock was definitely not like Perry Mason. Yes, both shows did spotlight courtroom scenes and cases that were decided before a judge. Ben Matlock was no Mason, though, and Griffith was quite different from Raymond Burr. Courtroom dramas remain popular on TV, though, to this day. Having some quirkiness to the Matlock character added to the role fixed up consistently by Andy Griffith season after season. Even Griffith found a spot for his old friend Don Knotts on the show at one point. It was good to see them together once again.

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