‘Matlock’: Before Show, One Star Won Miss Florida Pageant, Competed for Miss America

by Joe Rutland

Little do people realize one of the stars of “Matlock” happened to compete in beauty pageants before appearing in the TV series.

Nancy Stafford, who played Michelle Thomas on “Matlock” from 1987-92, was Miss Florida 1976 and took part in the Miss America Pageant 1977. She’s a native Floridian, born in Wilton Manors, Fla., which is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale.

Yet Stafford’s career has veered through a number of different tunnels. Upon graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in Journalism, she began working in the public relations world. Then, she moved to New York and worked as a model for the Ford Model Agency.

‘Matlock’ Star Stafford Moves From Florida To LA

Show business, though, proved alluring and she moved to Los Angeles in 1982. Stafford managed to pick up guest-starring roles in shows like “Remington Steele,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” “Who’s The Boss?”, and “Magnum, P.I.” among others.

She played Joan Halloran for two seasons on “St. Elsewhere.” But her run on “Matlock” brought her a lot of attention. When the show relocated out of Los Angeles for filming in 1992, Stafford decided to opt out of the show.

Nancy Stafford went on to host her own talk show called “Main Floor” in the 1990s. She also has written a number of Christian-based books. Stafford has been married to Larry Myers, a founding member of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, for 28 years. She’s a stepmom to their daughter, Katie.

But Stafford remains known by “Matlock” fans for her five seasons on that show which stars Andy Griffith as defense attorney Ben Matlock.

Griffith Once Called Character ‘So Cheap and Vain’

Speaking of ol’ Ben, it appears that the first iteration of Ben Matlock didn’t appeal to Griffith at all.

“He was so cheap and vain,” Griffith said in a 1996 interview for Parade Magazine. “Later, I pushed and got it better. I was a troublemaker. I wanted better scripts, better actors.”

When Griffith talks, things start happening. Pretty soon, that cheap, vain Matlock was gone. Adios. A new, improved Ben Matlock appeared on the scene.

That one had a sense of humor and played his guitar, traits that were similar to another famed role Griffith played. Of course, we’re referring to Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Griffith’s changes parlayed into a nine-season run on NBC and ABC for his series. People can see “Matlock” in syndication these days, much like his fabled CBS comedy.