Andy Griffith filmed an episode of Matlock in the small town he lived in, and used locals as cast and crew
"This is a valentine from Andy for the whole community."
The Andy Griffith Show superfans will know that Andy Griffith was born and raised in Mount Airy, North Carolina, which served as the inspiration for the idyllic Mayberry. Mount Airy still hosts an annual Mayberry Days festival celebrating all things Andy Griffith.
Even after Andy hit it big in Hollywood, his heart never really left North Carolina. In his early career, he spent several summers performing in The Lost Colony, "the longest-running outdoor symphonic drama in the nation" in Manteo, North Carolina.
Griffith fell in love with the small island town. Once he found success in Hollywood, he returned... this time for good. "Now, no matter what happens, we know that's home, the place where we can really be free," Griffith said in the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show. Griffith and his then-wife, Barbara, purchased fifty-three acres on the waterfront in Manteo, just up the coast from where he had performed The Lost Colony. "We can fly to Hollywood or New York or wherever else I got to be, but Manteo, that's home."
Over the years, Griffith spent more and more time in Manteo and less in Hollywood. The locals knew better than to approach him and let him live a quiet, everyman life. "We always gave Andy space," Edward Greene, a local shop owner, comments in Andy and Don. "When Andy wanted to shop on his own, he'd call me and he'd come in at eight o'clock, while my staff was vacuuming the shop and we were preparing to open."
In 1989, Griffith got a chance to give something back to the small community that he had found home in.
He convinced the producers of Matlock to film an episode not only set in Manteo, but filmed on location. "The Hunting Party", the season four premiere two-partner, follows Matlock as he defends a man accused of killing his brother in a duck-hunting accident.
"Griffith made sure a lot of the local flavor shows through in the episode," The Associated Press wrote. "Beach scenes were shot in Nags Head, while other segments were shot at the Lost Colony Theater."
About 20 local residents were hired as crew, and dozens more as extras. "Everyone was vying to be cast in something, and a lot of them were," Greene said. "It was the biggest thing that ever happened in the town."
Della Basnight, a longtime family friend of the Griffiths, said "this is a valentine from Andy for the whole community."