‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Aunt Bee Actress Frances Bavier Sought ‘Professional Help’ After Obsession with Role

by Clayton Edwards

It’s not rare for audiences to start seeing actors as their roles. For instance, some will always see William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk. At the same time, some fans find Barney Fife and the late Don Knotts to be one and the same. It was this type of identification that nearly pushed the late Frances Bavier to the edge after years of playing Aunt Bee on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

It wasn’t just fans of “The Andy Griffith Show,” that linked Bavier with her character, though. She found it hard to step out of the role at the end of the day. Six years into the iconic show’s run, Bavier talked to “The Star-Gazette,” about the difficulties that came from playing the role for so long.

Bavier told the Elmira, New York newspaper that she had some trouble separating herself from Aunt Bee. Unlike a play or film, where one plays a character for only a short time, she was Aunt Bee for hours every day. She felt she was in character for up to 12 hours a day, according to the interview.

“You can’t be an actress for 40 years,” Bavier said. “Living in a world of make-believe, and not be affected… Sooner or later, your mind begins to click, and in my case, you are wise to seek professional help, to help stop being Aunt Bee after work.”

Along with all the time spent in-character, fans of the show saw her only as her role on “The Andy Griffith Show.” This was hard for Bavier. Firstly, she had been acting for forty years before she took the role of Aunt Bee. She was a stage and film actress before being the Taylors’ live-in aunt. So, to be recognized solely for a single television role stung a little. At the same time, she was slowly becoming obsessed with the role.

Frances Bavier Said Aunt Bee in “The Andy Griffith Show” Was Nicer Than Her in Real-Life

She told the newspaper that her “The Andy Griffith Show” character was much nicer than the real Frances Bavier. So, she loved playing the part. At the same time, her decades of acting had taken their toll on her mental health. Between constantly working on the show and being recognized for her character, she found it nearly impossible to be the real her after work. So, she sought professional help.

She went to a psychiatrist to help her step out of the role when filming ended for the day. She needed to have a work-life balance. However, she could not get that balance if she was constantly in character.

According to the paper, the “Andy Griffith Show,” star didn’t seek help because she feared that she was going insane. In fact, it was the opposite. She worried that without help she would slip into some form of insanity. She wanted to keep her mental health intact. At the same time, she wanted to have the ability to be herself once again.