In a classic Matt Lauer interview with both Don Knotts & Andy Griffith, the titular star revealed that their show purposefully withheld the decade Mayberry existed in.
Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” feel they know which decade their idea of Mayberry exists in. It wasn’t the sixties in which it was filmed, right? Surely it had to be the forties… or earlier?
When speaking on “The Today Show” in 1996, Andy Griffith himself let slip a little-known, remarkable factoid. If any fan thinks they know exactly when and where Mayberry is: they’re wrong! In fact, Griffith and the stars of the show, like longtime friend Don Knotts sitting beside him, purposefully kept this key knowledge under wraps.
“Tell me about Mayberry! What was it like?” Lauer asks the stars, noting “The Andy Griffith Show”s feeling of “a time gone by.”
“Well… Though we never said it, and though it was shot in the sixties, it had a feeling of the thirties,” Griffith responds with a smile. “It was when we were doing it – a time gone by.”
“We were very careful to keep our characters very pure,” the late icon continues within.
Indeed, Andy and the whole creative team behind the iconic show were fixated on keeping the show’s home-grown feeling intact. This included keeping the specific time period under wraps, but also ensuring that each character stayed true to family values.
“If a joke made a lie out of the character, we’d lose the joke,” Griffith grins.
“Andy used to say: ‘If it sounds like a joke, throw it out!” His dear friend Don Knotts adds.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ was a Massive Success Despite the ‘When’ or ‘Where’s
With so much competing family entertainment at the time, some were surprised by the now iconic show’s grand success. Among those surprised? Don Knotts himself.
“I think we all were [surprised],” the late legend smiles to Lauer. “I think when we first started out, we were just hoping we’d stay on the air!” he laughs.
To that end, Andy Griffith recalls a particular gaffer named “Frank” on his show. Apparently, Frank wouldn’t look Griffith in the eyes for the first six weeks of production. Frank did, however, have quite the incredible prediction for the then up-and-coming star.
“I never remember Frank’s last name, but he wore a felt hat. Didn’t speak to me for the first six weeks!” Griffith begins the tale. “And I ran into him in the men’s room one day… He said ‘You’ll be in the Top Ten in six months,” the star grimaces of Frank to laughs from both Knotts and Lauer.
“And we were,” Griffith grins. “We were never out of the top ten after!”
Watch the full, remarkable interview below, and relive some of the best interview moments from “The Andy Griffith Show” icons Andy Griffith & Don Knotts:
Matt Lauer interviews Don Knotts & Andy Griffith on The Today Show March 4, 1996.The Today Show