‘Matlock’: Michelle Thomas Actress Nancy Stafford Explained Her Unlikely Opportunity to Get Role

by Chris Haney
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Actress Nancy Stafford was an integral character alongside Andy Griffith on Matlock for five seasons. Last year, she revealed how she came into her most well-known role.

During a February 2020 interview with FOX News, Stafford opened about her role as Michelle Thomas. As a young actor in the early 1980s, she guest-starred on multiple hit shows.

Stafford made appearances on Who’s the Boss, Quantum Leap, Magnum P.I., and more. The actress earned her first regular acting job on NBC’s medical drama St. Elsewhere.

However, Stafford is best known for her work on Matlock, where she starred as Ben Matlock’s legal partner from 1987 to 1992. Her time on the show originally began as a guest star. But a year later, producers offered her the full-time role as Michelle Thomas.

“I originally guest-starred on Matlock. I was already a series regular on another show called Sidekicks —  a real sweet family show that aired every Friday night, I just loved it. But we only ran one season,” Stafford explained.

After Sidekicks got canceled, Matlock producers remembered her guest appearance, and offered her a new reoccurring role. Stafford’s work on the show became a highlight of her acting career.

“I was in just about every episode [of Sidekicks] but this one week, I wasn’t in the script. So I had a week off. And then my agent called and said, ‘Hey, you’ve been offered a guest-starring role on a show called Matlock that’s been on a year.’ It coincided with my time off so I took it. I think a year later when my show got canceled, [the producers] immediately thought of me and I was available. So it all came together,” she said of being hired on Matlock.

Matlock‘s Nancy Stafford Talks About Iconic Co-Star Andy Griffith

During her five seasons on the hit show, Stafford and her husband got to know legendary actor Andy Griffith well. The actress even shared that her husband would come to the show’s set and play his mandolin while Griffith strummed his guitar. The pair would jam out between takes.

Yet it was Griffith’s work ethic on Matlock that impressed Stafford the most. The actress said she learned “about crafting a character” from Griffith during her years on the show.

“I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he did,” Stafford said of Griffith. “His finger was on every single page of the script. He needed to have everything exactly right.”

Anyone that has watched Matlock knows of the lawyer’s witty courtroom scenes. But fans of the show may not have realized that Griffith would film those long scenes in one, long take. His monologues were so impressive, Stafford said he would earn a standing ovation every episode.

“He would memorize those long courtroom scenes as a monologue and yet he made it look so easy. He had this wonderful gift, this tremendous talent. So every day was like a masterclass at work. Every time he would do the courtroom scene, he would get a standing ovation… And he would do it in one take. Everyone would get up to their feet when he was done and just applaud,” Stafford said.

Stafford said she stayed in touch with Griffith even after her time on the show came to an end. She even spoke to him a couple days before he passed away in 2012, which she says she’ll “never forget.”

“It was amazing. And he had a fun, light-hearted tone on set. He was so great to work with. I just adored him,” Stafford explained.

Outsider.com