“The Andy Griffith Show” was a gentle, good-natured TV comedy. And Opie actor Ron Howard says its particular style of comedy owed a lot to Andy Griffith’s influence.
“Andy used to say that ‘even though we’re making the show in the ’60s, Mayberry is really the town that I grew up in in the ’40s.’ So there was something nostalgic about it already,” Howard told the Television Academy Foundation in a 2006 interview. “It wasn’t trying to be current.”
Howard explained that Griffith wasn’t looking to make fun of the characters populating Mayberry. He wanted audiences of all ages to identify with the characters’ foibles and quandaries.
“Andy really set the tone for the show,” Howard added. “I remember Andy often saying, ‘We’re not doing ‘Little Abner.’ It’s not ‘Beverly Hillbillies.’ It’s not a farce. It’s a comedy. I want people to laugh with these characters, not at them.’ And there were jokes that would get thrown out because he thought they were too burlesque… and not organic to the honest nature of the characters and the situation.”
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Launched Howard on the Directing Path
On a recent episode of the “Smartless” podcast, Howard told the story of how he became interested in the creative process, and by extension, directing. Naturally, it involved “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Howard was about 7 years old at the time. And he had to say a line that didn’t ring true to him. He told the director, “I don’t think the kid would say the line that way.” The director asked him how a kid would say it. So Howard suggested a rewrite, and the adults on set accepted it.
After they did, Andy Griffith happened to look over at Howard. Seeing his young co-star’s face, he asked, “What are you grinnin’ at, young’un?” Howard replied, “That’s the first idea of mine you’ve taken.”
“Well, it’s the first one that was any damn good,” Griffith retorted. “Now let’s run the scene.”
Howard explained that it was through creative exchanges like that that he grew interested in directing. And certainly his early stints on two hit shows – first “The Andy Griffith Show,” then “Happy Days” – provided the future director with priceless experience.
Howard Is Shy for a Hollywood Big Shot
Perhaps surprisingly for an actor, director and major Hollywood celebrity, Howard insists he’s an introvert. But he says that his preferred approach to moviemaking pushes him outside his comfort zone and into new situations all the time.
“I grew up as a child actor, been working all my life, and I love it,” Howard told The Guardian last year. “But it does create a kind of bubble. So I look for projects that lead me to life experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had – and on my own I’m an introverted, risk-averse individual. But, when there’s a story to be told, it gets me out of the house, talking to people, learning things. And then I just go.”
Howard’s most recent directing credits include “Hillbilly Elegy” and the documentary “Rebuilding Paradise.” He also has multiple projects in the works, from “Thirteen Lives” to “The Girl Before” to “The Fixer.”