“The Andy Griffith Show” is remembered – and loved – for many things. There is the wisdom of Sheriff Andy Taylor, the kindness of Aunt Bea, and the sense of community in Mayberry.
Another one of the most memorable parts of the show is Deputy Barney Fife. The character, of course, was brought to life by Don Knotts. Fans still love the actor’s portrayal as the lovable, goofy, and loyal deputy. And, according to an interview he gave before his death in 2006, Knotts loved playing the character.
This interview took place in 1999 and was part of a series by the Television Academy Foundation. It was during this interview that Don Knotts talked about how difficult it was for him when he chose to leave “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Comment By Show’s Star Prompted ‘Barney Fife’ Actor to Consider Leaving
Turns out, one reason that motivated him to seek acting jobs outside of Mayberry was a statement by the show’s star – Andy Griffith.
“I left because Andy had said he would never do the show longer than five years. And, I had a five-year contract,” Knotts explained. “During the fifth season, I thought, ‘Geez, I better start looking around for more work.’ And, I wound up getting an offer from Universal to do movies and do my own pictures.”
This was an offer Knotts believed he shouldn’t pass up because the show’s star wasn’t planning to stay on after the fifth season. Well, as fate would have it, Griffith changed his mind. This left the actor in a pretty bad spot.
“And then, Andy suddenly said he was going to stay on another two or three years. Well, I’d already cast my lot, I guess,” Knotts said “I hadn’t really signed (with Universal), but I had said I would. And I had focused all my attention in that direction. I don’t know – I just went ahead.”
Leaving ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Allowed Don Knotts to Make Movies
And, even though leaving “The Andy Griffith Show” was a very difficult decision to make, Don Knotts moved ahead anyway.
“But I was very … it was a tough time for me because I enjoyed ‘The (Andy) Griffith Show’ so much that I hated to leave,” he said. “I never expected it to go on.”
And, he said he wanted to move from the small screen to the big screen.
“I had interviewed with a lot of people. … had some offers,” added. “But movies, that’s what I wanted.”
“The Andy Griffith Show” aired from 1960 until 1968, according to IMDb.com. From 1966 until 1968, Don Knotts appeared in only a handful of episodes. There were two in 1966, two in 1967, and one in 1968.
You can watch Don Knotts talking about leaving “The Andy Griffith Show” with the Television Academy Foundation below.