‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Elinor Donahue Reflects on Relationship With Cast

by Anna Dunn
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 03: Actress Elinor Donahue speaks during the "Amazing Talents That Have Graced Star Trek" panel at the 15th annual official Star Trek convention at the Rio Hotel & Casino on August 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

In 2015, The Andy Griffith Show star Elinor Donahue recently took a moment to reflect on her relationship with the cast. Donahue played pharmacist Ellie Walker on the hit series. She was originally supposed to be on the series for much longer, but coming off a 6 season run of Father Knows Best, she realized she needed a break from acting.

Once Donahue left The Andy Griffith Show, Andy Griffith explored romances with other characters.

Even though her time on The Andy Griffith Show was shorter than planned, she still managed to create a solid relationship with a lot of people in the cast. She talked about them in an Archive of American Television interview.

“Don [Knotts] was wonderful to work with,” Donahue said. Knotts, of course, played the legendary Barney Fife on the hit series.

“Betty Lynn Is a very good friend of mine. We’re very close,” she added. Lynn played Thelma Lou, the girlfriend of Barney Fife. Lynn passed away in October of 2021.

Additionally, she had a fantastic experience working with Frances Bavier on The Andy Griffith Show. Donahue noted that she didn’t have the best reputation.

“Others have said she was tough and snappish and this and that but I never thought so,” she said of Bavier.

“Ron Howard was the best child actor I had ever worked with up to that point. Not to take anything away from any other child actor I’ve worked with since. He just had something. He was not acting. You were those people when you were talking to him,” she said. Howard, who played Opie on the classic show, has gone on to do incredible things as both an actor and a director.

“He was a nice little boy. Not the least bit bratty,” she said. Unlike a lot of child stars, his stardom on The Andy Griffith Show was just the start for him.

Andy Griffith Once Said ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Writers Didn’t Know How to Write Donahue’s Character

There didn’t seem to be any bad blood between Donahue and Griffith after she left The Andy Griffith Show. On the contrary, Griffith actually expressed regret that they didn’t do more to write for Elinor’s character. But Donahue has insisted that they did everything alright, and she didn’t give them much to work with.

Coming out of a show like Father Knows Best was stressful for a young Donahue. She felt very insecure in her role as Ellie Walker on The Andy Griffith Show despite the fact that production felt she was doing alright. While she’s joked that Don Knotts stole her lines, the actress seems to have nothing but fond memories when it comes to the cast. It just seems like she wasn’t in a good enough place to be on another show full-time.

Following her work on The Andy Griffith Show, Donahue continued to act with her latest credit going all the way up to a 2011 episode of The Young and The Restless.