‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ron Howard’s Real-Life Father Helped Shape Opie’s Character

by Jennifer Shea

Actor and director Ron Howard, who played Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show,” had a very close relationship with his father. And early on, his dad, who showed up on the show’s set quite often, had a talk with Griffith about how the onscreen father-son relationship should play out.

Opie was an iconic character for a generation of kids. On the show, he was earnest and obedient, albeit with occasional goof-ups.

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Howard told the story of how his father wound up shaping Opie’s character, and Andy’s relationship with Opie, on the show.

Ron Howard’s Dad Shaped How They Wrote The Andy-Opie Relationship

“Early on, they wrote Opie a little differently – more like the typical sitcom kids who were always kind of the wisea– comebacks, jokes, punchlines, things like that,” Howard said. “Later I heard that my dad actually was talking to Andy about it, the Andy-Opie relationship. And Andy was talking to my dad about our relationship. My dad and I were very close. My dad was around the set quite a bit.”

“And somehow my dad apparently said, ‘Well, what would happen if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad?’” Howard explained. “As opposed to the sitcom kids, who were always kind of making Dad look bad.”

“I don’t know if my dad was really thinking that, you know, he dreaded my getting into a pattern of thinking that those comebacks were the right way to deal with a parent, or not,” Howard added. “I never asked him. But Andy really took to that, and that was how they began to write that relationship. I think it was influenced a little bit by my own relationship with my dad.”

Andy Griffith Loved Ron Howard

Griffith and Howard had a great working relationship on the set. In later interviews, Griffith made it clear that Howard had two good parents. Howard didn’t need a father figure, he said, but the two became good friends.

“He loved Ron very, very much,” Griffith’s daughter Dixie told Closer Weekly. “They had a deep and abiding respect for each other, and they remained friends till the end.”

For his part, Howard has since spoken out about the life lessons he learned from Griffith. The set was a warm place, he said, and there were plenty of hijinks and banter.

“I learned hard work and fun were not diametrically opposed,” Howard told Closer of his time on “The Andy Griffith Show.” “In fact, they could work hand in hand.”

After “The Andy Griffith Show,” Howard would go on to act in “Happy Days” (and later “Frasier” and “The Simpsons,” among others) before becoming an Academy Award-winning director. He has said he would consider returning to acting at some point if he can just find the time.