Andy Griffith's Mayberry: How a backlot came to life

Behind-the-scenes of TV's most iconic small town.

CBS Television Distribution

The best TV shows make us suspend our disbelief. They can take us to outer space, a medieval kingdom, or even a fictional Southern town. The shows we remember— the ones that connect with us the most— take time to make their settings feel real. How a show's set is designed, and the artists' attention to detail, can have a powerful impact on how the program is received by its audience. Is it somewhere we want to spend our time? Can we imagine what life is like when the cameras aren't rolling? 

The interior sets for The Andy Griffith Show were filmed inside Desilu Studios, as were many other shows at the time. But when Andy and the gang were seen anywhere outside, the production was filming at Forty Acres, a back lot in Culver City, California. The downtown area of homes and shops that made up Mayberry were just some of the building fronts and set throughout the backlot.

In 1967, the Chicago Tribune TV Week published "All About Mayberry", in which Griffith shared how he felt about the iconic set.

"Funny thing about the Mayberry we know at Forty Acres," said Griffith, "is that even though all of the buildings are false fronts, when you're working there you get the feeling of being in a small town. You forget that on the other side of the fence is one of the biggest cities in the world." 

Throughout the show's first season, as Griffith and the cast acclimated to their new workspace, the town became a home for the man who played its sheriff. Griffith knew he wanted to imbue Mayberry with the real-life texture of small-town USA.

"The show was not set in North Carolina to start with. It was just somewhere in the south, but I hated saying things like Central City. I wanted to say Siler City, which is a real town," said Griffith.

"Finally, we started saying Siler City and Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville, and it just became North Carolina, and I think it helped."

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MichaelPowers 26 days ago
Desilu's Forty Acres backlot was also used for Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Hogan's Heroes, The Green Hornet, and Gomer Pyle, USMC.
Don't forget "The Untouchables" with Robert Stack and movies like "Gone With The Wind"
Superman episode with the Molemen, and some other B & W ones.
Also when the Green Hornet leaves his lair thru the secret entrance, his car roars out
onto the dystopian streets of a seedy Mayberry, past the courthouse.
They used that footage over and over.
You half expected to see a gone to seed Goober pan handling on the corner,
Miss Grump robbing Floyd's, and Aunt Bee selling her dried, finely diced pickles
in joint form from shadowy doorways.
MikefromJersey 25 days ago
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RWJ777 MichaelPowers 25 days ago
There is an excellent book called “Hollywoods Lost Backlot” by Steven Bingen all about the history of the “40 acres” backlot.
ncadams27 26 days ago
It was easier to suspend your disbelief when the show originally aired and you watched it on a 14” B&W TV with a snowy picture than on a 75” UHD digital TV.
Runeshaper 26 days ago
Well, there definitely was a small-town feel to Mayberry so I'd say that the set was a success (-:
FrankensteinLover 26 days ago
If you just want to get a feeling of what it could have been go to Mount Airy Nc, most just call it mayberry and walk the peaceful Main Street and take in the stores and wonderful food.
My 24 yr old grandson and I always way the show together.. He was driving from FL to NY and texted me that when he saw the exit sign for Mt. Airy, he rolled down the window and yelled, "AAANNNDDDYYY!". 😂
Jwedd001 Jwedd001 25 days ago
*watch, not way
Haha thats great, Mt Airy is good for the soul.
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