When “The Andy Griffith Show” started, the late Andy Griffith – who hailed from North Carolina – really played up his Southern accent. And it was a deliberate move, according to his late costar Don Knotts.
In a 1999 interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Knotts said Griffith was drawing on his role from the play that launched both their careers.
“Andy, in the beginning, I think, laid on his Southern dialect more than he really had, and then he pulled that way back as we went on,” Knotts explained. “Originally, I think he was doing the character he did in ‘No Time for Sergeants.’ I think he was being the funny guy.”
But Griffith and Knotts soon settled into their respective roles. And Griffith started playing Andy as a distinct character from the backwoods Georgia boy he portrayed in the play (and later movie) “No Time for Sergeants.” He was the straight man to Knotts’ clown.
“As he said later, he said, ‘Well, turned out, I wasn’t the funny guy. Barney was the funny guy, and the other characters,’” Knotts added. “So he said, ‘My job was to play it straight.’ So that’s what he did. He pulled the character way down and just played him as a normal guy.”
Watch Knotts talk about Griffith’s accent here (at 22:05):
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Stars First Bonded Over Being Two Southerners in New York
Daniel de Vise, author of “Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show,” told Closer Weekly last year that Griffith and Knotts bonded over their shared Southern heritage and feeling like fish out of water in New York City, where each had gone to pursue acting.
“By the time they met, they were both Southern guys in New York,” he said. “And there weren’t a lot of Southern guys in New York, at least not on the theater, television and radio scene. That, right there, set them apart. I believe they both tried out for this play ‘No Time for Sergeants’ and Andy, through his own machinations and great ambition, landed the main role in that play. It was a huge success; sort of like a ‘Hamilton’ of the 1950s. It was a bestselling book that became a Broadway play and a movie.”
The two reportedly met in rehearsals and instantly took to each other. And onstage, the duo had strong comedic chemistry. They made the most of the one or two scenes they had together.
“There’s like one guy from the play who’s still alive that I interviewed and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, those two guys… that scene just crackled,’” de Vise said.