The Andy Griffith Show actress Elinor Donahue said she was “not a happy camper” while working on the show. Donahue played Ellie Walker from 1960 through 1961. Walker was Mayberry’s pharmacist.
Before The Andy Griffith Show, Donahue found major success on the show, Father Knows Best. After Father Knows Best ended, she really struggled to adjust to a new show. She was set to play a very different role.
“I went pretty much immediately from ‘Father Knows Best’ into ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ where I was really playing a grownup with a profession and moxie and stuff,” she said in a 2018 interview with Fox. “But the truth is, I felt like a bird out of a nest. I didn’t feel like I had all my feathers yet and I didn’t feel capable. It was the strangest feeling.
But it didn’t seem like Donahue ever had any sort of conflict with Andy Griffith or anyone else working on the show. It seemed like the conflict she experienced on the show that caused her to stay on for only a year came from herself.
“I had a three-year contract for that show, but at the end of the first year, I asked to be let out of it because I didn’t feel that I was playing the role properly. I just didn’t feel right about it. In retrospect, from things that people have said to me – very lovely things – I was doing OK. I was just not a happy camper. There was no point in my trying to continue with it,” she continued.
Griffith Regretted How He Wrote Donahue’s Part on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
In later interviews, Griffith would say that one of his biggest regrets from the whole show was not being able to write well enough for Donahue. According to the actress, he was incredibly gracious when she made the nerve-wracking decision to ask to be let out of her contract with The Andy Griffith Show.
“He said they just didn’t know how to write for me. That could have been part of it. I didn’t think there was any real chemistry there. They tried a lot of other women periodically, but then Aneta Corsaut (Helen Crump) came in. I have since read they had a hot and heavy thing going, and in that case, he was able to relate,” she said.
Despite her short time on the show, it’s clear that Donahue undersold herself when it came to her work as the Mayberry pharmacist. Watching it back, she seemed to blend in just fine with the show. But imposter syndrome can be difficult to manage. Thankfully, she was able to leave the show with no bad blood.
If anything, Griffith felt bad that he couldn’t do more. It goes to show just how much of the kindness of Mayberry and its characters was just as important behind the scenes.