“The Andy Griffith Show” star Don Knotts died in February 2006 of pulmonary and respiratory illness. He was 81.
But before he did, he raised two kids, Karen and Thomas, and earned a place in the annals of television and movie history. He accomplished the latter alongside his frequent co-star, Andy Griffith. Griffith died in July 2012 of a heart attack at age 86.
In fact, Knotts’ daughter, Karen, said that Griffith was like an uncle to her and her brother. The kindly TV star had a collaborative relationship with their dad, and he was always friendly to Knotts’ kids.
‘Andy Griffith Show’ Star Was ‘Like an Uncle’ to Knotts’ Children
In a 2018 interview with Closer Weekly, Karen opened up about her dad’s relationship with Griffith, and the late TV star’s behavior around his co-star’s kids.
“He was very friendly to me,” Karen said. “[Griffith] was like an uncle. He had different sides. You could see that sometimes he would be intense, and other times very, very warm and endearing.”
Karen added that contrary to what has been alleged in books about the comedy duo, Griffith never resented Knotts, nor vice versa. They were a symbiotic team, and they remained one even after “The Andy Griffith Show” ended
“Andy was never jealous of my dad,” Karen explained. “He was his biggest fan and mentor. Everything later he was in, he wanted to get my dad in, too. Even when he was on ‘Matlock,’ and my dad wasn’t working at the time, he went to the producers and said, ‘I want Don Knotts on the show.’ They said, ‘No, this is a dramatic show, there’s no part for a character comedian.’”
“[Griffith] kept fighting and fighting, and then they put [Knotts] on, but they didn’t want to pay him much. Andy went to the mat and fought with them on that,” Karen recalled. “They gave him not really what he should have gotten, but at least a decent salary. Everything from the day he met them, he was in my dad’s corner.”
Griffith and Knotts Were Gossip Hounds
On the set of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Griffith and Knotts were two peas in a pod, working long days together and gossiping shamelessly when the cameras were off. Karen was just 6 when the show launched, but she remembers feeding her father lines and hearing about his rapport with Griffith from her mother.
“We didn’t see him a lot, because he worked 10, 12 hours a day,” Karen told Closer Weekly. “And when he was home, he was always holed up in his room working on his lines and stuff like that. At the time, we kids were pretty young, and he confided whatever he was feeling about working on the show to my mom. But, like I said, I remember watching and listening to him rehearse.”
“He asked me to run lines,” she added. “At the time I already knew I wanted to act, so I would try to act it out and he’d say, ‘No, no, no. Just give me the lines straight, no inflection, nothing, otherwise you throw me off.’ I was just a part of that process. I do remember my mother telling me how much Andy and Don liked to gossip.”
The two actors remained close until Knotts died, and biographer Daniel de Vise said that by the final years of their lives, both “Andy Griffith Show” stars considered each other best friends. It’s a departure from typical Hollywood stories, which are rife with petty jealousies and betrayals. And it just goes to underscore that the show’s good-natured humor applied when the cameras were off, too.