‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Detailed What Made Episodes ‘Like Little Movies’

by Jon D. B.
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

“I loved being a cast member.” Speaking to the Director’s Guild of America, Ron Howard detailed how and why making The Andy Griffith Show was like working in the movies.

Ron Howard has been a part of the film and television industry since he was two years old. Learning the trade through his father, Rance Howard, Ron would go on to star in some of the biggest TV shows of all time, most notably: The Andy Griffith Show and, of course, Happy Days.

It is the former, though, that Ron Howard says truly gave him a grasp on the trade that would mark his future: directing.

At some point in the course of that show, I remember noticing that the director was the person who was interacting with everybody, and that looked interesting to me, because I liked what everybody did,” Howard tells the Director’s Guild of America of his calling.

Ron Howard: Director in the Making

By his own words, The Andy Griffith Show was the best practice for directing film he could’ve hoped for. For many reasons, Howard says the show was like making “little movies” – a phenomenon that would clearly pay off for the prolific director in the future.

I loved being a cast member, and I was allowed to be a cast member like everybody else. We had great directors who had all been actors,” Howard shares. “A guy named Bob Sweeney directed most of the first three seasons, and Sheldon Leonard, who was the executive producer, directed a bit, too.”

It was these men who would hone a young Ron’s understanding of directing film.

“The episodes were like little movies. It was a single-camera show, so the directors were vitally important,” he notes. “The writers were around for the read-throughs on Thursdays, but the director really took over for the rehearsals on Fridays, and then we’d film on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.”

‘The Andy Griffith Show’: ‘A Real Keen Sense of Purpose’

All in all, Ron Howard says The Andy Griffith Show “was a tremendous environment because although there was a lot of laughter, there was also a real keen sense of purpose.”

It’s hard to imagine this not being true with leaders like Andy Griffith himself and Don Knotts at the helm. Howard speaks to this directly as his talk with the Director’s Guild continues, too. Within, the actor-turned-director says that even though they were “grinding” away at a weekly series, it never once felt like it.

Even though it was a quick schedule, it never felt like factory work,” Howard tells the guild. “Later I’d sometimes do guest shots on other TV shows and it felt really different, like an assembly line.”

Not so on The Andy Griffith Show. In fact, Howard says he never once “got the feeling anyone was phoning it in.”

Why? One simple reason: “Because Andy didn’t, ever.”

And what Andy Griffith did – others would always follow.