‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Griffith Called This Understated Character a ‘Genius’

by Joe Rutland

Andy Griffith had a knack for seeing talent who could fit into “The Andy Griffith Show.” In fact, he once called one character a “genius.”

Who could this be? Well, it turns out Griffith is talking about Floyd the Barber, played by character actor Howard McNear. Griffith talked about McNear’s performance as part of a CBS retrospective on “The Andy Griffith Show” in 2003.

“Howard McNear was a genius,” Griffith said, surrounded by Jim Nabors, Don Knotts, and Ron Howard on this show. “He sure was,” Knotts replied.

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Recalls Character’s Communication Style

As a highlight featuring McNear plays on screen, Howard said, “That halting, can’t-quite-finish-his-sentence, and then to come out with just that one little word.

“He would just sit in his own chair, his own barber chair, and everyone would gather around and a wonderful scene would unfold,” Howard said.

“One of the funniest men that ever lived,” Knotts said of his “The Andy Griffith Show” co-star. “Oh yeah,” Griffith replied, “and he didn’t even seem to try. I don’t know where he discovered that character.”

Howard McNear would leave “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1967, reportedly because he started having trouble remembering his lines. McNear died on Jan. 3, 1969, at 63 years old.

Out of the four actors appearing on this retrospective, only Ron Howard remains alive. Nabors, Knotts, and Griffith are all dead.

Don Knotts Had Tough Time Leaving Show After Five Seasons

For his career, Knotts had found a home with “The Andy Griffith Show” playing Deputy Barney Fife. It was a role that brought Knotts recognition from the public and his peers, too.

Yet he left after five seasons. He didn’t leave in a huff, though, as his reasoning was around Griffith’s statement that he just planned to do the show for five seasons.

“I left because Andy had said he would never do the show longer than five years,” Knotts said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “And, I had a five-year contract. During the fifth season, I thought, ‘Geez, I better start looking around for more work.’ And, I wound up getting an offer from Universal (Studios) to do movies and do my own pictures.”

Knotts felt like he couldn’t pass up the offer. He took it. Then Griffith decided to keep on going with the series.

“And then, Andy suddenly said he was going to stay on another two or three years,” Knotts said. “Well, I’d already cast my lot, I guess. I hadn’t really signed (with Universal), but I had said I would. And I had focused all my attention in that direction. I don’t know – I just went ahead.”

His movies did well, but people still remember Knotts as the one-bullet-carrying deputy in Mayberry.