‘The Andy Griffith Show’: The Subtle Way Andy Maintained Creative Control

by Taylor Cunningham

The namesake star of The Andy Griffith Show had a unique way of maintaining creative control on The Andy Griffith Show—silence.

In Andy and Don: The Making of a Classic American Friendship, author Daniel De Visé recounted the classic TV series’ co-creator Sheldon Leonard’s initial impression of the star. Right from the start, Griffith was an introspective man of few words. But Leonard knew there was a strategy behind the persona.

When Leonard first called the actor to pitch the Andy Griffith plot, he asked Griffith to choose the place. And being the down-to-earth man that he was, he picked his favorite New York spot, a sandwhich shop on Eighth Avenue. While there, he ate lunch and let Sheldon do all of the talking.

“I told him the idea we had, which was to make him sheriff of a small town,” he remembered. Leonard expected the actor to jump at the opportunity to helm his own show. But that’s not what happened.

As Leonard tried his hardest to recruit Andy Griffith, the actor simply nodded and listened. He was polite and kind but didn’t offer his own insight or ask questions. And when the meeting ended, Leonard hadn’t gained any ground. But he was impressed with Griffith’s calm demeanor, and he respected that he wasn’t impulsive. So, he continued to wine and dine Griffith.

After the cafe meeting, Leonard upped his game by taking Griffith to lunches at the Hotel St. Moritz, a five-star establishment that borders Central Park. After three conversations that were largely led by Leonard, Andy Griffith finally opened up. And when he did, he had a lot of questions.

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Stars Understood Griffith’s Methods

The comedian wanted to know all the important details—like, how will they finance the series? What is the creative direction? After that encounter, Leonard understood that Griffith made sure he fully understood what was going on before he agreed to anything. And he only spoke when it was necessary. But Leonard played his cards right because the actor finally signed with the show.

Once Griffith’s signature was in ink, the co-creator finally asked, “Why all this advance rigamarole?”

 “Just wanted to know who I was dealing with,” Griffith answered.

While the actor worked on The Andy Griffith Show, he proved that he was much more outspoken and boisterous among friends. And he was overwhelmingly regarded as a fair and loving boss. But when things got serious, he reverted back to silence. When that happened, the cast and crew knew it meant that something needed to change with the script or the acting.

Goober Pyles’ George Lindsey shared that it was easy to tell if Griffith liked his performances. When Griffith was pleased with the work, he’d call and sing praises. When he didn’t, he said nothing.

“It wasn’t so much what he said; it’s what he didn’t say,” Lindsey said. “The silence would just kill you.”