‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Ron Howard’s Dad, Rance, Made Pitch That Changed Opie Forever

by Will Shepard

Ron Howard was only six years old when he was cast as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. Because he was so young, his dad, Rance, was around the set a lot.

No one ever minded Howard’s dad having a presence on set. In fact, Rance’s contributions were very much appreciated. When Ron Howard began on The Andy Griffith Show, he couldn’t read very much of the script. So, his dad would go over the script with him to help his son memorize the lines.

Rance’s relationship with the entire show was also just as important. In an interview from Television Academy Foundation in 2010, Ron Howard described the impact he had on the show.

“Early on, they wrote Opie a little differently.” Howard explained, “More like the typical sitcom kids who were always kind of with the (wisecrack) comebacks and jokes, punchlines, and things like that.”

Howard explained that years later, he found out that his dad had a chat with Andy Griffith about his son’s character. It was more of a commentary from Rance on how he was perceiving the character from outside the set.

Rance Howard Chimed In With Crucial Advice for “The Andy Griffith Show”

Nonetheless, Rance Howard explained to Andy that the relationship seemed to be much like a sitcom.

“Somehow, my dad apparently said, ‘Well, what if Opie knew that Andy was smarter than him? How about if Opie actually respected his dad? As opposed to the sitcom kids who are always kind of making the dad look bad. I know there are jokes there, but I don’t know, I just thought it might be different.'”

“And I don’t know if my dad was really thinking that he dreaded my getting into a pattern of thinking that those comebacks were the right way to deal with a parent or not. I never asked him,” the young star of The Andy Griffith Show shared. “But Andy really took to that, and that’s how they began to write that show relationship.”

Andy Griffith certainly took the conversation to heart. Consequently, he created a respectful, well-mannered character in Opie. As a result, Mayberry was able to continue to live up to its TV show reputation as a type of utopia. Also, it helped establish Andy Taylor as the premiere TV dad in the 1960s.

Howard readily admits that his relationship with his own father shaped The Andy Griffith Show. The relationship they had was a really positive one, and they were exceptionally close. So that made it possible for Andy to base the character off the Howard’s. That is something that very few actors are able to say.