‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Maggie Peterson First Auditioned for a Completely Different Role

by Craig Garrett

Maggie Peterson played a classic tv role on The Andy Griffith Show, but she was up for another part in the first season. Of course, Peterson played the role of Charlene Darling. Some episodes centered on her character, like the season 3 episode “Mountain Wedding“. Charlene became a fan favorite and often stole scenes.

At various points, Charlene Darling’s feelings for “that pretty man” Sheriff Andy Taylor are obvious. The actors’ romantic chemistry is examined with a lot of humor. It’s a main focal point of episodes that fans fondly remember. But there was no Charlene Darling character when Peterson tried out for The Andy Griffith Show at first. She was seeking for a role as Ellie Walker, the first love interest for Sheriff Andy, who debuted in the series’ first season.

The Musical Chairs of casting Andy Griffith’s love interest

Ellie Walker was portrayed by actor Elinor Donahue. Because of the lack of chemistry between Donahue and Andy Griffith, Ellie Walker was quickly cut from the program. Many fans suspect that the chemistry was off due to an age gap. Elinor Donahue was only 23, while Griffith was 34 when the show started.

However, this may shed light on why Maggie Peterson wasn’t cast as Ellie Walker in the first place. Peterson was only 19 when she auditioned for the part. Given that Andy Griffith had a mature look, the contrast probably would have been very extreme.

Peterson would make her debut as Charlene Darling three years later in season three. By now, Ellie Walker had vanished. Fans had all but forgotten the character. They were used to the idea of Sheriff Taylor being a bachelor with little interest in marriage. There was a rotating roster of funny women like Darling that would breeze through, but viewers were certain Andy wouldn’t settle down.

Sheriff Taylor eventually finds his lady in Helen Crump

However, eventually, a true love interest was introduced for Sheriff Andy Taylor. Aneta Corsaut arrived in Mayberry as Helen Crump in season three. The school teacher would prove to be Andy’s match. Eventually, Andy and Helen married and moved away from Mayberry. The characters did make time to return for two appearances on the spin-off, Mayberry R.F.D. Helen even came back with Andy for the 1986 tv movie, Return to Mayberry.

Fans of The Andy Griffith Show sometimes speculate whether Maggie Peterson’s take on Ellie Walker might have lasted. It’s certainly a fun “what if” question to ponder. If Sheriff Taylor had been attached in season one, we might not have had fun guests vying for his attention in later episodes. Regardless, through her performance as Charlene, we do get an idea of how Ellie would’ve played out.