The Andy Griffith Show is an iconic part of TV history. However, no one could have predicted it would be as popular as it was. On the other hand, it had a solid base. It was a spinoff series based on the hit Danny Thomas Show. So, it would draw a solid audience at the very least. Andy Griffith wasn’t immediately sold on the idea, though.
Sheldon Leonard, co-creator of The Andy Griffith Show found that out first hand. He expected the young Andy to jump at the chance to have his very own television series. However, Andy was a cool customer. So, it took longer than Leonard imagined to get his name on a contract.
How Andy Griffith Reacted to the Original Pitch for the Show
The first meeting between Andy Griffith and Sheldon Leonard took place at a sandwich shop in New York, according to MeTV. Andy picked the place because it was his favorite lunch spot in town. He was comfortable there. The pair sat at a table and had a bite to eat while Leonard laid out the pitch for The Andy Griffith Show.
Leonard planned to build a show around the young actor. Griffith was a North Carolina native. So, the small-town angle played into his life experience. The showrunner was sure that Andy would jump at the chance to be a TV star. However, Andy just listened. He politely nodded in all the right places but never showed any kind of excitement. Instead of being put-off by this reaction, or lack thereof, Leonard was impressed. He gained a whole new respect for the cool-headed young actor. He wasn’t going to give up on the show, though.
Andy Stayed Cool-Headed
It took three meetings to get Andy to sign on. The second and third meetings were on Leonard’s turf. He set up meetings at the swanky Hotel St. Moritz which is now the Ritz-Carlton. He hoped the opulent setting would impress the young actor enough to sign on with The Andy Griffith Show. However, the meetings went much the same way as the first.
However, when Andy did finally speak, it deepened Sheldon Leonard’s respect for the future star. Andy fired off a line of intense questions. He wanted to know how The Andy Griffith Show was being funded. More importantly, he needed an understanding of the artistic direction of the show. Leonard saw that Griffith was smart and a good listener. His respect for the star deepened even more. It was only after Griffith’s curiosity was satisfied that he put his name on the dotted line.
After the ink was on the page, Leonard asked Andy why he took so long to agree to do The Andy Griffith Show. Andy told him simply, “I just wanted to know who I was dealing with.” Thankfully, Sheldon Leonard showed himself to be an upstanding guy with solid ideas. Otherwise, we may have missed out on one of TV’s best shows.