The end of Season 2 of The Andy Griffith Show featured a rarity in the classic TV series – a member of Barney Fife’s family came to town. Barney (Don Knotts) introduced the Andy Griffith gang to his cousin Virgil, an awkward teen who builds confidence throughout the episode with the help of Andy Taylor.
Cousin Virgil only appeared in one episode, aptly titled “Cousin Virgil”. However, fans never forgot his boyish face. And by the late ’50s and early ’60s, the actor behind Virgil, Michael J. Pollard, was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
Pollard’s small role in The Andy Griffith Show was one of the first of what would become a 50-year acting career. By the time he retired, Michael Pollard had amassed more than 100 acting credits including everything from the most light-hearted sitcoms to the most gruesome horror films.
Though he was a self-proclaimed homebody and painfully shy, Michael Pollard found his way to “the idol of young America” after his role in Bonnie & Clyde made him a popular Hollywood crush among teenage girls. In a 1969 interview, Michael Pollard revealed that his ultimate dream was to direct a movie. Specifically, a movie “about a guy who can’t tell the difference between reality and illusion.”
The film never made it to the silver screen, however. In fact, Michael Pollard never directed anything at all. This changeability can be explained by a comment he made in the same interview. “You ask me questions, and I have to think about answers,” Pollard explained. “Then you go away, and I’ll change my mind about a lot of the things I said. I change my mind at least 20 times a day.”
How Andy Griffith Knew Ron Howard Was a Star on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
Though Michael Pollard made perhaps the biggest leap from The Andy Griffith Show, he was far from the only actor to become a major Hollywood star. His young costar, Ron Howard, was only 6 years old when The Andy Griffith Show premiered, but those around him knew they were working with someone special.
Andy Griffith himself once recalled recognizing Ron Howard’s potential at a very early age. “Each Thursday, all the cast members got together and read the script,” Griffith explained to Hollywood Outbreak. “Ronnie piped up one time and said, ‘I don’t think a little child would say it that way.’ And I said, ‘Well, how would you say it?’ And he told me and I said, ‘Let’s go with it.'”
“So we had a good time,” Griffith said. “I liked Ronnie very much. He was a very good child actor, very fine. Sometimes when he was real little, when his energy level dropped, and he wasn’t concentrating too much, you’d see a hand come around the corner and thump him on the head. That was his father, his father Rance.”