‘Matlock’: Andy Griffith Explained the ‘Two Qualities’ He Liked to ‘Lay On’ Character

by Keeli Parkey

The year is 1996. Andy Griffith’s latest hit show, “Matlock,” had completed its nine-season television run the year before. So, it was a good time for the beloved television star to sit down for an in-depth interview. During this interview, he talked about character development.

That interview took place in 1996 with Ralph Emery. It aired on the TNN show “On the Record” in two parts. And, among the many topics the two men covered was the actor’s famous show “The Andy Griffith Show.” They also discussed the nature of Griffith’s character on “Matlock.” That character was Ben Matlock.

“Ben Matlock, lawyer. How would you describe him?” Emery asked Griffith.

At first, the actor had nothing but praise for the television lawyer.

“There again, that’s a wonderful character; it’s a wonderful character,” he said. “He’s very intelligent – highly intelligent. He’s a wonderful defense lawyer.”

However, not all of what Andy Griffith had to say about the fictional Ben Matlock was positive.

“He’s very cheap. He’s a cheap man. And, he’s very vain,” Griffith explained. “And, those two qualities, well the intelligence is good, but those two, the vanity and the cheapness – those are the two qualities I like to lay on.”

Andy Griffith Said He Wanted to Tell Stories on ‘Matlock’ ‘With As Much Humor As I Could’

It was those two qualities that allowed Andy Griffith and company on “Matlock” develop the character and create what he described to Ralph Emery in 1996 as “running jokes” on the popular drama.

“And, we had a lot of running jokes. Like, Matlock’s favorite junk food is a hot dog,” Griffith said during that 1996 interview. “Another running joke we had was to wake him up in the middle of the night. He sleeps with his head under the cover. And to wake him up in the middle of the night and watch him jump out of bed and pick up that baseball bat to go out and see who’s there is funny. We used to do it often.”

These running jokes were important for Andy Griffith to achieve a goal he set out for the show when he decided to take on the role of Ben Matlock.

“My whole thrust in the ‘Matlock’ show was to tell these stories, but to tell them with as much humor as I could get in them,” Griffith said.

You can watch Andy Griffith and Ralph Emery talk about “Matlock” and more of the legendary actor’s career below.