‘The Andy Griffith Show’: One Actor Retired to the Real Mayberry

by Matthew Wilson
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Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show” may have been a bunch of sets. But it was actually based on a real place, and one actor retired there.

Betty Lynn and her character Thelma Lou may not spring to the forefront of people’s minds when they think about the show. But they were an important part of the show and its history. Thelma was Deputy Barney Fife’s girlfriend and love interest on the show.

Lynn also holds the honor of moving to the real-life Mayberry for her retirement years. The fictional town was based on a very real one – Mount Airy, North Carolina. That was Andy Griffith’s hometown and where he spent his formative years. When it came time to create Mayberry, Griffith drew on what was familiar to him.

Lynn made the big move to Mount Airy in 2006. Up until that point, the “Andy Griffith” actor had been living in Los Angeles. She fell in love with the town after making an appearance for Mayberry Days, a local festival celebrating the show. Additionally, someone broke into her home back in Los Angeles around the same time, making the move a no-brainer. Lynn has lived in the town ever since. At 94-years-old, she currently resides in an assisted living facility, but still makes public appearances to speak with fans.

Betty Lynn on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Over the course of the show, Lynn appeared in 26 episodes as Thelma Lou. The actor appeared on the show from 1961 until 1966, acting as Fife’s love interest. For her role in the show, Lynn only made $500 an episode. Unfortunately for Lynn, her character was tied to Knotts’ Fife. When the actor left the show, there wasn’t much of a place for her in Mayberry, so her character was phased out.

But Lynn and Thelma later returned for the sequel movie “Return to Mayberry.” She also later appeared alongside Griffith in his 1980s series “Matlock” as well for a short period of time. Lynn and Griffith soon developed a feud over her limited amount of screen time on the show. Their falling out lasted until 2008 when they patched things up before Griffith’s death.

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