I was 5 years old when I first met him, and I recall a very relaxed first impression. On the set of The Andy Griffith Show there was a fantastic equilibrium between his love of laughter and jokes and also him just being the utmost professional. He truly respected people. Years later, I remember I had some reservations before committing to an Andy Griffith Show reunion television movie. I was afraid some bubble was going to burst, because I had these great childhood memories of my time on the show. But I came away from that reunion experience with all my recollections reinforced, and all my positive feelings verified.
The best advice he ever gave me was after the show was over. I was seeking his counsel about something, and he said, ”Every decision you make is a career decision. You owe it to yourself to be thoughtful and think about how you want to use what you’ve learned and your talent.” I remember I was getting ready to do The Da Vinci Code. I’d never done a mystery before, and of course he had on Matlock. I called him up, and we talked about characters and red herrings and twists and turns. He loved telling stories about people, about how paradoxical they could be — he loved their foibles and their quirks. He celebrated that on Andy Griffith, and he appreciated it about people in life.
(As told to Erin Strecker) Andy Griffith Essentials
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Elia Kazan directed Griffith in the actor’s breakout film, a dark, prescient drama about a drifting country boy who morphs into a powerful television host.
The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68)
On the indelible TV series, Griffith was Sheriff Andy Taylor, the father of young Opie (played by Howard) who watched over the idealized fictional town of Mayberry.
Alongside hits like The Golden Girls and Murder, She Wrote, Griffith’s legal procedural about case-cracking Atlanta lawyer Ben Matlock capitalized on TV’s senior-citizen boom.
One of Griffith’s final films was the Sundance darling in which he played a cantankerous diner owner who takes a shine to Keri Russell’s down-on-her-luck waitress.