‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Actor Revealed Griffith Was ‘Interested in Working’ Shortly Before His Death

by Joe Rutland

Even before his death, Andy Griffith was still interested in working according to one of his costars on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Ron Howard says Griffith, who died on July 3, 2012, expressed that desire in an interview with “Entertainment Tonight.” Howard, who played Opie Taylor in the show, talked with “ET” after finding out about Griffith’s death.

“I jumped online and saw the confirmation,” Howard said. “I hadn’t talked to Andy this year (2012) at all. I’d spoken with him several times last year (2011). My dad had spoken to him recently, my father Rance (actor Rance Howard, who died in 2017).

“At that point, which was just 6 or 8 weeks ago, you know Andy was very upbeat and, you know, interested in working and interested in projects,” Howard said. “You know, I think he lived, you know, a rich, full life of optimism to the very end.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Was Quite Invested In How Show Looked

There’s no doubt that Griffith was the star of his own show. Yet he was able to take that and leverage it to have a hands-on ability with it.

Griffith would allow other voices, such as executive producer Sheldon Leonard, to come along and have their input. Leonard, who worked with Danny Thomas in their production company, would review scripts and offer his two cents. It was OK with Leonard if Griffith used or didn’t use his suggestions on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

That’s how much leeway Griffith had when putting episodes together.

“Andy Griffith was not the producer of the show or the creator,” Howard said. “It wasn’t his original idea. He never wrote any episodes but, without a doubt, he was the architect. It was his. (And) it reflected his sensibility and it was sort of his voice.”

Knotts Reached Out To Griffith About Joining CAst After Watching Pilot

The lead actor definitely had a hand in making sure Don Knotts was part of his cast. Now Griffith and Knotts previously worked together in the movie version of “No Time for Sergeants.”

Griffith played Will Stockdale on both Broadway and in the movie. Knotts played a wired-up type of character in the movie, a bit similar to one he played as part of “The Steve Allen Show” cast.

Knotts talked about getting cast during an interview with the Television Academy Foundation prior to his death in 2006.

“I didn’t even know it,” Knotts said. “Andy was still back in New York. He was doing a musical on Broadway.”

Knotts watched “The Andy Griffith Show” pilot that actually was a part of “The Danny Thomas Show.” The show was about a small-town sheriff and Knotts said he thought Andy could use a deputy.

“So, I called him in New York,” Knotts added. “He said, ‘It’s a h—of an idea.’ He said, ‘I’ll call Sheldon Leonard. He’s going to be our executive producer. Why don’t you go see him and sit with him?'”

Knotts did and, eventually, joined the cast.