‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Ronald Reagan Helped Lead to Ron Howard Landing Role on the Series

by Matthew Wilson

Besides being a director, Ron Howard is known to many for “The Andy Griffith Show” as a child. The actor got the role with a little help from President Ronald Reagan.

Ronalds got to stick together. No, the future president didn’t call the producers of the show to give Howard a shot. But Reagan did give Howard a shout out, which led to his fame growing. After all, if a U.S. president calls you out then surely you must have the goods. Of course, Reagan wasn’t the president back then. (Howard was already on “Happy Days” by the time Reagan made it to the Oval Office.) He was a fellow actor himself and a host of an anthology series “General Electric Theater” during the 1950s.

Howard was 5-years-old at the time. He appeared on an episode of the anthology series, and his performance stood out so much so that Reagan mentioned him personally.

“I guess I didn’t have much of a credit, but Ronald Reagan had seen the episode and at the end, he just ad-libbed this thing and said, ‘Special thanks to little Ronnie Howard who did a wonderful job as Barnaby’ or something like that,” Howard told the Archive of American Television in 2006.

A producer for “The Andy Griffith Show” saw Reagan’s shout out and reached out to the Howard’s agent about the show.

“And that led [The Andy Griffith Show producer] Sheldon Leonard to call my agent and say, ‘I’m doing a series with Andy Griffith and we need a son,” Howard said.

Ron Howard Remembers Andy Griffith

That show ended up being the beginning of a long and successful career in Hollywood for Howard. The director credits Andy Griffith himself for showing him the ropes of the show biz.

“He treated me really well. He made it a learning experience, not in a stern, taskmaster kind of a way,” Howard said. “I was allowed a real insight into creativity and how things work and why some scenes were funny and others weren’t. That insight has served me really well over the years. Andy was really kind to me, always playful and fun. By the same token, he wanted to get the work done.”

After “Andy Griffith,” Howard went on to star in “Happy Days” and later he transitioned to becoming a prolific director. And he thanks Reagan for the little help back when he was still a young boy.