Andy Griffith said Matlock was the ''best role he ever had on TV''
Yep, even better than Sheriff Taylor. Do you agree?
More than 60 years after it premiered, The Andy Griffith Show still draws millions of viewers each week. It is, inarguably, one of the most beloved television shows of all time. Chalk that up to the irresistible characters — Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, Gomer, Goober, and Sheriff Andy. They feel like family.
But Andy Griffith himself preferred a different role. He found Matlock to be more satisfying as an actor.
"This character can go in more directions than any I've done before," Griffith told the Associated Press in 1987, as the first season of Matlock was coming to a close. He and the journalist sat over coffee in a country club, reflected on his second round of success as a television star.
"Griffith says he thinks it's the best role he ever has had on TV," the writer reported.
"It's a wonderfully conceived part," Griffith added. "You're almost unlimited in what you can do with the part."
It might be shocking to hear for Mayberry fans, but it makes sense that he thought that. Essentially, Matlock was an amalgam of his greatest characters. Matlock had the Southern charm and wit of Sheriff Taylor — and the darker of his earlier dramatic roles. The lawyer had an "edge," Griffith and his interviewer noted.
"Dig beneath that Southern charm and you find thorns," the piece explained. "Matlock has more in common with Lonesome Rhodes from A Face in the Crowd." That 1957 drama traced one man's downward spiral into trappings of fame. And it was perhaps Griffith's greatest dramatic acting.
Yet, it took Griffith the span of the first season to really figure this all out.
"Before we came on the air I couldn't tell you what made us different or what Ben Matlock different from Perry Mason," Griffith said. He whittled the character like Sheriff Andy might a piece of wood. "Once you're on the air the show begins to take on a personality."
Griffith preferred that patient approach. It had worked for The Andy Griffith Show.
"We started [The Andy Griffith Show] with just me and the aunt and the boy," Griffith said rather matter-of-factly.
Griffith revealed that his Matlock dialogue required more study and practice on his part. Perhaps that added to his enjoyment of the role. At the age of 60, he was still pushing himself.