‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Ron Howard Uses His Wife as a ‘Fill In’ for Many of His Films

by Will Shepard
(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Ron Howard quietly took over Hollywood when he started playing Opie in The Andy Griffith Show. From there, his legacy only grew. He continued to star in television shows and movies while delving into directing and producing.

Certainly, Ron Howard was given a unique talent for Hollywood. He has done exceptionally well in his career, being nominated for 76 awards and winning 39, including 2 Oscars.

Ron Howard joined Dan Patrick for an interview in 2015 to talk about his career. One of the first things that the two talked about was his wife.

Patrick asked him about his movie process. He specifically wanted to know if Ron Howard was putting himself in the movies he was directing as Alfred Hitchcock once did. This did prompt him to talk about how he does that with his wife – Cheryl Howard.

“My wife is that for me,” Howard said. “It’s just worked out that way. She’s not an actress. She doesn’t even particularly like doing it.”

As he said this, Dan Patrick laughed, as did Ron Howard. He collected himself for a moment and continued to explain the role his wife has in his movies.

Ron Howard Shared the Story of Getting His Wife Into His Films

“But we met in high school, and the first movie that I was making was a sort of serious. It was a short film. I was going to enter it in the Kodak Teenage filmmakers contest. It was a one-reeler category,” Howard explained.

He continues talking about how the filmmaking process worked when he was first dating Cheryl. It was a tedious project that he undertook. He explained that most people were doing animation projects because it was easier to do, but he went for live-action.

“I did a live-action with my dad, who’s an actor – Rance Howard; my brother clint – who’s an actor; and I needed a [third]. It was a kind of Western thing. I cheated. I got to sneak on the backlot of a Western set at a studio. And I needed a saloon girl, so I said, ‘Cheryl, do you want to be the saloon girl?'”

“We hadn’t been dating that long, but she came,” Ron Howard said. “All she had to do was stand off to the side and kind of wink while these two had this goofy showdown. Anyway, I came in second,” he said. “That felt pretty lucky.”

Afterward, Ron Howard and Cheryl kept dating, and it went well. But, he explained that he “always needed people to fill in” as extras in his movies. More importantly, he needed them to be cheap. So he says that “she would always do it.”

As his career kept growing, he explains that he became “superstitious about it.” He continued, saying, “sometimes she has a line of dialogue, sometimes not. But if you know who you’re looking for, you can almost always find Cheryl Howard.”