There’s no denying the hilarious, genuine chemistry between the cast members of The Andy Griffith Show. The on-screen relationship between Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith, and Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts, kept fans entertained from 1960 to 1965.
However, the easy-going banter between the show’s main characters made fans wonder: were they friends outside the show?
In a novel by Daniel de Visé called “Andy and Don, The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show,” Visé sheds light on how the two stars met a decade before the premiere of the beloved show. The two met on Broadway in the 1950s and was just the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’: More Than Just Laughs
To show how strong their friendship was, Griffith was by Knotts’ side during his final days. “Though their Mayberry partnership lasted only until 1965, the two remained best friends for life,” de Visé said in an interview. “Andy was with Don in 2006 at his deathbed.”
Ron Howard, who played Opie Taylor, said in an interview that the two became a perfect match for each other. Howard remembers Griffith attunement to Knotts’ comedy, to a point where he couldn’t contain himself from laughing during shooting.
“Andy was the world’s greatest audience for Don,” Howard shared. “Don had Andy literally in tears once a week. Having come from similar backgrounds, the two hit it off right from the jump.”
“They were two Southern guys with similar backgrounds, stories, and childhoods, so they were drawn to each other instantly.”
Despite the cast’s closeness, Knotts’ time on the show didn’t span the series’s whole length; he hung up his badge as Mayberry’s deputy sheriff in 1965 after the fifth season.
Before he passed away, Knotts explained that his decision to leave wasn’t out of spite; it was because the producers told Knotts it would only be for five seasons when he signed up. When the first five years wrapped, Knotts began to look for other work and eventually signed a deal with Universal.
“It was a tough time for me because I enjoyed the show so much that I hated to leave,” he explained. “I never expected it to go on.”